Another rumor: The sticking point in the budget is the rainy day fund, with some members wanting to leave it alone in case the recession persists, and others—thinking the June revenue forecast will show an uptick—wanting to spend some of it now to deal with the $5.2 billion shortfall.
Hunter's cell reception was fine for that one: "What, do you get a new rumor everyday? No, the rainy day fund is not a problem," Hunter said emphatically, knocking down the latest theory that's circulating in the halls of Olympia.
In fact, Hunter was clear with Fizz on several issues. He said there were two approaches to getting a budget done: 1) you can just introduce something and have a big public fight over every line item ("I don't want to introduce something and have it stop at the sun dial," he said, referring to the little park between the house and senate buildings); or 2) you can work on it in private and round up the votes. "You don't have a budget until you have the votes," he said, defending his strategy of going the behind-the-scenes route.
Calling the budget a "big complicated jigsaw puzzle where people care passionately about every single line item," Hunter said he disagrees with his Republican counterpart, ranking ways and means chair Rep. Gary Alexander (R-20, Olympia), on issues such as funding for the Disability Lifeline, the Basic Health Plan, undocumented immigrants, and nursing homes, but "Alexander and I are not fighting. We agree on 90 percent of things. When we walk through the budget together we agree we have got to make deep, sweeping changes [in how we do government.]"
It's not just Alexander he's working with, though. The house Democrats have the numbers to pass a budget without the Republicans. And Hunter acknowledged that he's got to bring his own caucus along too—and get sign off from the governor. "On the campaign trail we like to talk about how we should just budget like every typical family does, but in a family there aren't 500 different accounts—and you only need two votes."
Democratic budget leaders, state Rep. Ross Hunter and state Sen. Ed Murray. Photo Andrew Calkins.
And then there's the senate. "It looks like we'll have to agree with the Republicans on the senate side," he said referring to the fact that in the senate, the GOP has teamed up with conservative Democrats to corner a majority.
Hunter, a former Microsoft manager with a reputation for being a bit of a know-it-all, was uncharacteristically humble, saying part of the issue was, "there's a new chair"—referring to the fact that he only took over ways and means this year. He explained how when he took over, he knew everything about K-12 funding (in the 2009 session, Hunter became an expert in education funding and led the fight for sweeping education reforms), but "I didn't know anything about Medicaid. I spent months learning how it worked and came up with a budget and then I was like, 'My god, what have I done?'"
2. A Port of Seattle-sponsored forum on road diets and freight mobility yesterday quickly devolved into a predictable freight-vs.-bikes pileup, as manufacturing interests on the panel argued that giving an inch of roads like Airport Way S. and East Marginal Way to bike lanes or sidewalks would devastate the city's freight and maritime industries.
The city has proposed some version of a "road diet" on both streets. On East Marginal Way, which carries only about half of the cars it was built to accommodate in the 1960s, the city would reduce the number of lanes from six to four, plus a turning lane. On Airport, it would add bus bulbs and reconfigure parking to improve pedestrian safety; that proposal was generated by the surrounding community.
Longshore union representative Harold Ugles said accommodating more cyclists and pedestrians on either street would lead to job losses and traffic gridlock. "We're under attack," Ugles said. "What we're trying to do is prevent gridlock, because gridlock drives away the jobs, it pisses off the public, and it's a problem for everybody." BNSF government affairs director Terry Finn warned grimly that if Seattle keeps adding "luxuries" like sidewalks and bike lanes, we'll end up like Portland, a supposed dystopia where "income is 20 percent below that in Seattle."
Seattle transportation director Peter Hahn tried to counter the dire warnings, noting that although opponents have predicted disaster every time the city has proposed a road diet, those predictions have never come true. "The harm that has been forecast did not occur." And if it did, Hahn noted, the city could always just re-stripe the road for cars again. "It doesn't cost millions to reverse it."
3. In our original item here, we reported that the 2002 marijuana campaign, headed by now-Stranger writer Dominic Holden, relied entirely on volunteers instead of paid signature gatherers. That assertion was based on a search of Seattle Ethics and Elections and a search of the Public Disclosure Commission's database and confirmation from an SEEC staffer. Additional PDC records show that the campaign did pay signature gatherers. In response to an email from Holden requesting a correction, PubliCola said we would be "happy" to correct any error and requested documents showing the expenditures. Holden did not respond to our email but did post the additional PDC records on the Stranger's web site.
PubliCola regrets the error.
On Slog yesterday, tunnel opponent Dominic Holden defended the anti-tunnel campaign's use of paid signature gatherers, who were paid $2 a signature, on the grounds that "of course, every other initiative" hires firms to gather signatures too. That's certainly true at the state level, where initiatives require 241,153 valid signatures and referenda require 120,577 valid signatures to make it onto the ballot.
At the city level, however, that hasn't typically been the case. (Two notable exceptions: The anti-bag fee campaign, funded by the plastics lobby, and the developer funded anti-monorail campaign). For example, the 2003 campaign to make pot the city's lowest law enforcement priority, which Holden managed, used volunteers to collect 18,000 valid signatures to get the initiative, which was ultimately successful, on the ballot.