A state budget is a crystalline expression of public values: who benefits, who actually pays, and what counts. After laboring for weeks, sheer will and (hopefully) just a minimal amount of budget legerdemain, Democrats in the state Senate are unveiling their proposal to safeguard higher-ed and K-12 funding from additional cuts. Moreover, the possibility of voters weighing in on a sales-tax increase appears off the table. Is Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Ed Murray a miracle worker, a magician, or an inspired fusion of the two?
"The job of balancing the state budget was made easier this month with the unexpected news that a combination of reduced demand for state services and a slight uptick in tax collections had reduced a $1.5 billion shortfall closer to $1 billion, depending on how much money is left in reserves," the Seattle Times Andrew Garber writes.
One big question going into this morning was what sort of budget juggling (er, accounting) might be involved in the Senate's plan. As Associated Press reported a short while ago, the Senate plan proposes delaying $330 million in school payments into the next budget biennium, helping the Senate Democrats to balance the numbers for this biennium. But that step, while similar to what House Democrats plan, also creates a hole from which the next budget work would begin.
The feds are still the elephant in the voting booth with the marijuana-legalization debate. The Stranger offers space to Jeffrey Steinborn, a pot defense attorney, who is curiously opposed to Initiative 502, the Washington ballot measure that would legalize marijuana. Steinborn illustrates the schism among cannabis reformers who can't agree on the initiative's impact on medical-marijuana users. Steinborn, however, takes the argument one step further, suggesting that the measure simply doesn't comport with federal law.
"What’s wrong with a state law that attempts to legalize and regulate cannabis through a system requiring that participants register with the state or be licensed by the state? In the most recent litigation of the issue of confidentiality of state-held records, a federal magistrate judge called the idea delusional," Steinborn writes.
Steinborn presents a persuasive case that I-502, if passed, may ultimately get nullified. Nevertheless, from a legalize-and-regulate perspective, why not move forward, with I-502 as a barometer of public opinion?
When Mayor McGinn runs for re-election in 2013, he might co-opt the tagline from Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign: In your heart you know he's right. Exhibit one are the tolls on the Highway 99 tunnel that are now expected to fall $200 million short (an inconvenient fact tucked inside the state house transportation budget.)
And who told you so? As the Seattle Times Mike Lindblom writes, "Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn bucked the political establishment during the 2009 campaign by insisting the DOT's original toll scenario was unsustainable, and the latest findings tend to support him."
Research is often in the eye of the researcher (or, more accurately, truth is often who pays for it.) This is generally the case when it comes to contentious environmental questions. In Alaska, the objectivity issue is brought into focus by a massive mine near Bristol Bay. It's a proposal vigorously opposed, for example, by Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell.
"The Pebble Limited Partnership, in some 27,000 pages of data and analysis, purports to provide an in-depth look at the environmental and social conditions in southwest Alaska's Bristol Bay region. Pebble vice president for environment Ken Taylor said the data, as well as ongoing studies, are critical for monitoring and ensuring that the Pebble mine project does not alter the pristine environment," the AP's Becky Bohrer writes. "The work has been dismissed by environmentalists, fishermen and others as bought-and-paid-for science that should be viewed as tilted in favor of development."
Lastly, looking for work in the Northwest and want to find the most in-demand, e.g. "hottest" jobs around? The Seattlepi.com's Vanessa Ho has compiled a list, and you'll be surprised at some of the contenders. (Sadly, online jounalism has yet to graduate to the hot pantheon. Maybe next year?)
Seattle Times, "Senate Dems' plan avoids deeper cuts to education"
The Anchorage Daily News, "Pebble mine opponents see environmental study as slanted"
Seattlepi.com, "10 hottest jobs in Washington"