Midday Scan: Gregoire thinks small; Murray blames GOP

Another bad budget idea from Gregoire; Murray on who killed the supercommittee; Alaskan corruption gets somehow even more corrupt; Portland Police Chief backs off mayoral run.

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Sen. Patty Murray is a leader of the congressional Super Committee on the budget.

Another bad budget idea from Gregoire; Murray on who killed the supercommittee; Alaskan corruption gets somehow even more corrupt; Portland Police Chief backs off mayoral run.

Gov. Chris Gregoire acts like a soon-to-retire high school coach for a middling swim team: Scolding but faithful, resigned but still trying to coax. Think of it as a kind of low-serotonin sobriety. "One-half penny to invest in education, public safety, and our most vulnerable fellow Washingtonians — that's what I'm asking for," Gregoire said yesterday. Come on, kids. Please.

As the Everett Herald's Jerry Cornfield writes, "Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday proposed asking voters to temporarily increase the sales tax by a half-cent to help balance the state budget and avoid cuts that would shorten the school year, reduce services for the disabled, and let hundreds of convicted criminals out of prison early." The revenue question quickly translates into a political question.

"The governor wants to put the three-year sales tax hike on the ballot next spring. If approved, it would raise $494 million through June 30, 2013," Cornfield writes. A sales-tax bump is a lightning rod for both parties. Republicans viscerally oppose any tax increase (the words "temporary increase" spark guffaws) and liberals recoil at the regressive nature of a boost in the sales tax. Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, says, "The governor sent the message out like Chicken Little and the sky is falling and we've got to have revenue. We're going to look at (budget) reforms before we look at revenue."

So what became of the much ballyhooed closing of non-job-generating tax-loopholes for corporations? All the while, the governor's budget is still fairly draconian, as Cornfield writes,"Gregoire's sales tax proposal largely overshadowed details in her proposed supplemental budget. That plan axes $507.5 million in spending on education from kindergarten to college. It shortens the school year by four days to save $99 million and slashes $152 million in payments to school districts through the levy equalization program."  

Sen. Patty Murray also mimics a high-school coach, offering a post-game analysis that puts the onus squarely on the other team. Discussing the failure of the supercommittee to pull together a deal, Murray tells the Seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly, "I went into this and had to put some blood on the table. It was hard for me to do this. The issue for our side was, 'If we do this, we had to have some revenue on the table.' They just wanted to take the entitlement cuts and walk away from the table." ("Blood on the table" echoes what Hemingway said of writing. "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.")

Some progress was made, the Senator said, but "Within a few days, the (Republicans) would pull back. I, personally, was surprised to hear people say, in public and private, 'We'd like to do this, but I can't support it because of the Norquist pledge.'" Grover Norquist runs Americans for Tax Reform. The Norquist pledge commits signatories to never raise taxes.

Connelly also illuminates one of the lefty takeaways. "Some liberal groups have cheered the breakdown of the supercommittee process, saying the budget crisis is already on a path to solution," Connelly writes. "Congress has already locked in about $1 trillion in reductions over the next 10 years. The failure of the committee's work means $1.2 trillion in additional, automatic cuts. The Bush tax cuts expire early in 2013. And the U.S. is finally exiting two wars it never made provisions to pay for."  

The postscript on the prosecution of Alaska's late Sen. Ted Stevens plays out like a Greek tragedy (one of the subjects in the investigation of prosecutorial abuse, Nicholas Marsh, committed suicide in 2010). Now, it's finally coming to an end. As Lisa Demer writes in this morning's Anchorage Daily News, "A 2 1/2 year investigation into the bungled prosecution of then-U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens found widespread and sometimes intentional misconduct by Justice Department attorneys in that and other Alaska corruption cases.

But the special prosecutor who led the review isn't recommending they face any criminal charges. In fact nearly everyone emerged unscathed from the Stevens' drama. "Stevens was convicted on seven counts of lying on his Senate financial disclosure forms, which prosecutors contended he did to conceal gifts from Bill Allen, then the head of oil field services contractor Veco Corp," Demer writes. "In April 2009, after prosecutors admitted serious missteps, Stevens' convictions were thrown out. [U.S. District Judge Emmet] Sullivan then appointed Schuelke to evaluate whether anyone on the Stevens prosecution team should be charged with criminal contempt of court."

Politics is a fickle beast. For one brief, shining moment, Portland Police Chief Mike Reese was Mayor Sam Adams's heir apparent. Not anymore. As the Oregonian's Maxine Bernstein writes, "Portland police Chief Mike Reese announced by press release this afternoon that he's not going to run for mayor  less than two days after he issued an apology for blaming Occupy Portland on live TV last week for a police delay to a rape victim's call." In sum, Reese took exaggeration (and exasperation with Occupy protesters) one step too far.

As Bernstein writes, "Although many praised the Police Bureau's handling of the eviction of Occupy Portland campers on Nov. 13, Reese's statements on live TV last week to a KGW reporter were inaccurate. In the TV interview, Reese said police officers took three hours to respond to the [rape] call because they were tied up with Occupy Portland events. But the call actually came in on Nov. 6, two days after the alleged sexual assault and before any of the bureau's large-scale police deployments for Occupy Portland." The late Sterling Munro, who ran the Bonnevllle Power Administration in the 1970s, had a phrase for this. Reese got caught up in "the effluence of his own exuberance."

Lastly, there may be big money in newspapering after all. As Rob Davis of the Voice of San Diego reports, Hotelier Doug Manchester bought the San Diego Union-Tribune on Thursday for more than $110 million. (Part of this cost reflects the Union-Tribune's real-estate portfolio). Does Manchester's purchase signal a pattern of business-oriented owners reclaiming faltering dailies? Whatever the case, Manchester has been training to be a publisher for years. "He has a well-earned reputation for being a small-minded, resentful, mean-spirited man."      

Link Summary

Everett Herald, "Gregoire wants to ask voters for half-cent sales tax increase"

Seattlepi.com, "Murray on supercommittee: I was willing to 'put some blood on the table'"

Anchorage Daily News"Report recommends no charges against Stevens prosecutors"

Oregonian, "Portland Police Chief Mike Reese says he won't run for mayor"

Voice of San Diego, "A Newsmaker buys the local Newspaper" 


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson