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Tag: Sam Hunt


Veto pen skewers studies

In a time of pinching pennies, it was hard for lawmakers to get their favorite ideas started up as new projects or even studied this session.

And some that did survive were eliminated today at the 11th hour. Gov. Chris Gregoire said she vetoed more than half of all reports and studies called for in the budget.

One veto saves $250,000 by dumping a proposed government-reform commission designed by Sen. Jim Kastama of Puyallup. The idea was to appoint veteran state leaders to a panel that would pick through the budget to find inefficiency and duplication.

But Gregoire wrote to legislators that the panel would itself duplicate work: “While I strongly support these goals, there are programs that address the same concerns.”

Kastama was caught by surprise by the veto. He said Gregoire promised him in a meeting a week before session ended that she would support the commission, and even talked about how members would be appointed. “She went back on her word, plain and simple,” he said.

He said it’s different from the other agencies that audit government because it would actually come up with legislation. “I really don’t think my colleagues are serious about substantial government reform.”

I’m waiting to hear back from the governor’s budget director about this one. UPDATE: Budget director Marty Brown said the governor supports the concept. “She thinks she can do it without spending any money.”

Another $250,000 study axed would have considered consolidation of some of Washington’s 295 school districts. There are too many districts and too much money spent on superintendents’ salaries, said Rep. Sam Hunt of Olympia, who proposed it.

But Gregoire said there’s already a study being done, and the new commission would only distract school districts when they need to be focused on education reforms that will allow the state to apply for federal Race to the Top funding.

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State workers: Don’t take us for granted

Sen. Pam Roach is the only senator who did enough this year to avoid a scolding from a major state employees group.

The Washington Federation of State Employees is denying endorsements to most legislators for now, saying they “waged a systematic campaign to dismantle human services and inflict extraordinary and unnecessary sacrifices on state employees.”

In case you’re scratching your head trying to remember these sacrifices, a quick recap of this session:  Democrats raised taxes as unions requested, didn’t cut pay for state workers, and ponied up an extra $65 million for worker health insurance, but they also closed three state institutions and downsized two others, cut about 3,000 state-employee and educator jobs, and furloughed as much as a quarter of the workforce.

The rhetoric may have bothered unions as much as the actions: Republicans demanding reopening of worker contracts; centrist Democrats complaining their party wasn’t doing enough to outsource non-core functions of government like the state print shop and liquor stores.

The result: Only 18 House members, mostly liberals, and the conservative Roach received backing Saturday at the union’s Endorsements Conference. The stamp of approval puts them on the fast track for the group’s endorsement — and the promise of fundraising help that comes with it.

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