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Archives: Jan. 2009


Suddenly, the poverty lobby seems downright cheerful

You can see it on their faces these past few days.

They were a glum lot at the beginning of this legislative session, considering how badly programs for the poor would be cut in the budget proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

But now, details on the federal stimulus package are leaking out and things don’t look so bad. Still bad, mind you. But not that bad.

House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, said one of his freshman members came up to him to ask why people testifying before the budget committees had gone from “woe is

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Pierce County to deploy permanent, unmanned ballot boxes

The Pierce County auditor’s office is rolling out five permanent, unmanned ballot drop boxes around the county beginning this week.

Sound like a security risk? Auditor Jan Shabro says it’s not. She compared the boxes to the sturdy unmanned mailboxes you see around town. "They’re not anything people can tamper with," Shabro said.

The boxes will be accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The idea is to give voters another convenient option for returning their ballots. Shabro said her office will still deploy temporary ballot drop-off boxes during big elections. Those require paying two people

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Yes, that is Sister Margaret Casey you see on campus

After a 10-year hiatus, Margaret Casey is back on the Capitol Campus, lobbying again. (I promised I wouldn’t disclose her client until she gets all her ducks in a row.)

Casey, who lobbied for the downtrodden for years, was a “recovering” lobbyist, but apparently has relapsed. (I’m told lobbying is a tough addiction to kick.)

Another case in point: Jim Boldt.

Another tough addiction to kick: lawyering. (In fact, Gov. Chris Gregoire sometimes refers to herself as a “recovering lawyer.”)

Anyway, the reason I mention Margaret’s return is that she’s wearing a button that says simply,

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Legislators, staff, lobbyists, friends will hold wake for Bill Grant

State Rep. Bill Grant, D-Walla Walla, died Jan. 4, just before the legislative session began Jan. 12. His funeral and memorial service were held in his home town, but the weather was atrocious. So, his friends and colleagues on this side of the Cascades put together a celebration over here.

“It will be like the get-together’s Bill has in his office, only bigger,” one lobbyist told me yesterday.

It will be at 6:30 o’clock tonight, off campus. It’s a private thing. If you got an e-mail, you’re invited.

Rep. Mark Ericks, D-Bothell, organized the celebration.


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TNT editor takes Pierce County government job

Hunter George, The News Tribune’s assistant managing editor for local news, just informed the newsroom he’s taking a job as Pierce County’s communications director. He’ll replace Ron Klein, who left to take a similar job at Sound Transit.

George came here in 2001 from the Associated Press’ Olympia bureau. He served as Public Life Team Leader here until October, when he was promoted to assistant managing editor.

Here’s the announcement we got from Executive Editor Karen Peterson and Managing Editor Dale Phelps:

Hunter George will be leaving the newsroom

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Schools stand to get share of stimulus pie


WASHINGTON – With the vote just hours away, Rep. Norm Dicks just called to talk about the $825 billion stimulus bill and what it will mean for school districts in Pierce County and the South Sound.

According to Dicks, the bill would provide $28.6 million to the Tacoma district for construction and other programs, $12 million for Federal Way, $11.7 million for Clover Park and $7.1 million for Puyallup.

Even the smaller districts will receive funding the congressman called “nothing to sneeze at.” University Place will receive $1.9 million, Fife $1.25 million and Steilacoom $962,000.

“These are all pretty impressive,” Dicks said.

The money is divided into three categories: construction, additional operating money for low-income “title I” programs and additional operating money for special education programs. All together, it amounts to more than $100 million for local districts over the next two years.

Dicks said the recession represented the “most serious moment for this country economically since the Great Depression.

While Dicks said the stimulus bill will add significantly to the federal deficit, without it the congressman said it would be even worse as federal revenues would continue to decline as the economy reels.

Below are the two-year totals for local school districts.

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Report says tolls on Highway 520 bridge could be less than $3 in 2016, compared to $6 toll on Narrows Bridge that year

What jumped out at me from the Tolling Implementation Committee report, which was just submitted to the Legislature and Gov. Chris Gregoire, is that huge difference in the amount of tolls they’re talking about.

The highest toll scenario I saw in the report said the range of tolls in 2016 would be between 95 cents on the low end and $5.35 on the high end. The average would be $2.92. (Their tolls will be variable — higher during peak commute, lower at night.)

But why so low? That’s less than half what Narrows Bridge commuters will be paying in 2016. The current schedule says we’ll be paying $6 to drive across the Narrows.

UPDATE: I was wrong. Rick Olson, spokesman for the Puget Sound Regional Council, said the tolls collected on the 520 bridge will be collected in EACH direction — not just ONE direction, as they are on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. That puts the tolls pretty much on par. The $2.92 average toll, times 2, would be almost $6. I’ve tacked Rick’s e-mail to the bottom of this posting, and I’ll do a separate one, too.

Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, told me a couple years ago that her goal was to have the same toll on 520 and the Narrows.

The report is 40 pages. I’ve got more reading ahead of me.

The Legislature has to decide whether to start tolling Highway 520 early, perhaps in 2010, or wait until after most of the work to replace the bridge is done, in 2016 or 2018 or so. They also have to decide whether to toll Interstate 90 bridge, too, to keep motorist from ducking the toll on only one bridge.

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Eyman starts signature drive on I-1033, Lower Property Taxes

Please note the new number for Initiative 1033. Tim Eyman made a few more changes after the last story I wrote, and got a new number assigned to his measure.

He actually made a few changes after reading that cities and counties thought his initiative was way too rigid because it didn’t take into account the growth in population, which is one of the things that drives up local government costs. They have to take care of more people.

So Eyman changed it.

The locals hate it when Eyman suddenly gets reasonable. Now they’ll have to change their tactics in trying to defeat the measure, if it does get on the ballot.

He needs 241,153 valid signatures from voters by July 3 to qualify for the November general election ballot.

Here is an actual copy of the petition.

And here is Eyman’s short-hand explanation of what his measure would do, after the changes he made:

The Lower Property Taxes Initiative I-1033 substantially reduces property taxes by controlling the growth of government. The Lower Property Taxes Initiative I-1033 says that the growth rate of state, county, and city general fund revenue cannot exceed inflation and population growth, while maintaining the safety valve of voter approval for higher increases. Excess tax revenue collected above the limit will reduce property taxes. That extra revenue will not go toward making government bigger, it’ll go toward making your property tax bill smaller. It’s a bold, brilliant initiative that substantially lowers our property tax burden by gaining control of government’s growth.

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