7:14 pm: Apparently there's some kind of football "bowl game" going on. I'll update as soon as I find a sports blog. (They have those, right?)
7:16 pm: In response to a question about whether the Seattle delegation has an agenda, Sen. Adam Kline (D-37) says no. "The nature of the job is broader than that formed by the interests of the city." The Seattle delegation has tried in the past to come up with an agenda, but hasn't really managed in the past because of their disparate interests. Every house and senate member of the delegation, however, supports getting new funding options for Metro Transit.
7:18: Newly elected state Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon says securing new Metro funding options is "on the top of the agenda" for Seattle.
7:25: Everyone on the panel agrees that the cost overruns provision is unenforceable.
7:26: Husky update: 7-0 Washington.
7:33: Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles says that if Sen. Ed Murray doesn't introduce legislation removing the overruns provision, she will---and Fitzgibbon says, "I certainly think if the senate managed to pass a stand-alone bill to remove that measure, I would be all for it."
7:34: Sen. Adam Kline says he would oppose any legislation removing the cost overruns provision because: House Speaker Frank Chopp opposes it; "there is a tremendous opposition to doing anything Seattle wants"; and a failed effort to make the provision enforceable (as Sen. Jim Kastama has proposed) would "give proponents [of the tunnel] ammunition."
7:36: State Rep. Reuven Carlyle says the argument that Seattle shouldn't be on the hook for cost overruns is a bad "policy argument" against the tunnel. "It's the best political argument against it; it's not the best policy argument."
7: 42: Switching subjects from the tunnel to the state budget, Carlyle says he plans to introduce legislation this session to make all tax exemptions (i.e. corporate loopholes) expire after a certain period.
7:44: Kline, Kohl-Welles, and Fitzgibbon agree: The state needs to figure out a way to link taxes people pay to what they pay for, so that voters won't simultaneously ask for more services and cut taxes, for example. "If we do a better job as legislators, making that connection, we can hopefully have the people of our state be willing to pay for things that they get," Fitzgibbon said.
7:47: Will environmentalists be able to get anything done this year, given all the competing programs that need funds? Kline says no, "by necessity." Fitzgibbon adds: Environmentalists are learning that they should push for things like ending subsidies for water rights permits, rather than simply asking for more money for programs.
7:51: A question about Initiative 1053, the Tim Eyman initiative requiring a supermajority vote of the legislature to raise taxes. Both Kline and Fitzgibbon call the measure "clearly unconstitutional," and Carlyle cites Federalist Paper 58: "Supermajorities are a profound right-wing strategy all ove the country to shift the structure of democracy itself in states they can't win," Carlyle said. "The founders of this country rejected superiority requirements for every single policy issue. … We need an organized, sustained, aggressive effort to defeat the concept of supermajority requirements, whether it's the US senate or the state of Washington."
7:55: Huskies update: Huskies just scored a field goal, bringing the score to 10-0.
7:56: A question about sovereign immunity, which---sorry---is over my head. Here's Reuven Carlyle's impassioned response, in part: "I do not support a compete repeal of sovereign immunity, by any stretch, but there are a great number of fiduciary steps that we can take, in my view, that show our inconsistency. Yes, we want the state to be liable when it has done wrong. … [But the state pays out] $120 million a year, the highest in the nation. We also don't have a risk management strategy in the state. [And there's a] perverse incentive if you're the lawyer. … You get all of your legal fees paid, regardless of the time it took, so you have an incentive to draw out the pace. ... We have to make some fiduciary, modest steps that are well short of sovereign immunity--- we have got to stop the immoral spending of $120 million a biennium."
8:03: In response to a question about what the Republicans in the legislature are up to, Carlyle says they're trying to "wall off education" with an "education-first" philosophy. "What you'll see is a very quick battle on in the budget around that question: Can you wall off education?"
8:07: Kohl-Welles, in response to the same question, says the Republicans have "denigrated" public employees, calling them wasteful and greedy, and claimed the legislature needs to cut more fat. "If the public thinks we can do this without pain to most people, then they're sadly mistaken, and my guiding principle, as I have to determine how to manage all this, is that we have to be very rational and keep in mind the long-term and short-term consequences [of the cuts]. Many cuts that we would make now will cost more in the long run, and the investments that we don't make in our children, our education system, our higher education system, cost us in the long run. You can't have a thriving economy without a skilled workforce."
8:10: A question about the "power and beauty of the human spirit." Moving on.
8:13: A teacher asks: Why are we being asked to do more, and work longer hours, without any additional pay? Carlyle, an education reform advocate, says teacher compensation has to be part of a larger, "very painful" conversation about public employee pay and benefits. "We are in a profoundly painful and ugly great recession. … Public education does have a level of protection that other areas don't enjoy. That doesn't mean it's it's painless ... but we as a community have to have a very painful conversation about this larger issue."
8:18: In response to a question about liquor privatization, Kline says he absolutely believes the state shouldn't be in the liquor business, but that until the revenue from liquor sales is replaced by some other revenue source, the state will have to either stay in the business or increase liquor taxes dramatically. Additionally, he said, "state stores save lives" by reducing underage drinking and reducing the number of drunk-driving accidents on the state's highways.
8:24: Two related questions: One about human-services cuts in general, one about the elimination of state funding for the Disability Lifeline in general. Kline says there are no easy answers. "We are going to make cuts in the coming biennium that offend everyone's moral sensibilities. If Republicans have moral sensibilities, they will be offended." Those cuts, he says, will be both immoral and will lose the state money in the long run. "I am concerned that at some point there's a numbing effect of being on the Ways and Means Committee... and yet we will do it because we have to."
8:27: Huskies update: Nebraska has scored a touchdown, bringing the score to 10-7.
8:30: Mingling has commenced. Thanks to everyone who showed up (the place is mobbed) and those who read along.
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