OOBT

 1. As Niki noted this morning, the state legislature will find out later this week how much money it has to spend this biennium.

The Everett Herald has a preview, and—surprise!—it doesn't look good: Revenues are expected to be down, and, when combined with unanticipated increases in Medicaid costs, the state "may be facing a gaping $1.5 billion hole in the next biennium."

Legislators, of course, are also trying to figure out a way to fully fund education (they need an estimated $1.4 billion this biennium), as mandated by the state supreme court's McCleary decision, as well as fund a transportation backlog in the billions. 

The state "may be facing a gaping $1.5 billion hole in the next biennium." 2. One solution for the latter problem would be for the legislature to give local transit authorities like King County Metro the authority to pass their own taxes to fund transit and local roads.

The Seattle Times' editorial board agrees in principle with the local funding option—but, not surprisingly, believes voters, not local governments, should have the final say in whether to tax themselves for critical transit funding needs. 

That's fine in principle, but in practice, it leads to crumbling roads and inequitable transportation systems, as transit-dependent commuters lose access to their only mode of transportation.

(In Pierce County, for example, when the fate of transit service was put to voters, voters said they didn't want to pay for it—reducing bus service for the county's transit-dependent residents by a third.) Whether the poorest King County residents are able to get around is not a decision that should be made by voter fiat. 

3. The Seattle Times profiles state Sen. Don Benton (R-17, Vancouver) who has gained new prominence this year with the ascension of the GOP-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus, and has taken full advantage, proposing 59 bills so far this session—more than any other legislator in the house or senate.

The bills range from a proposal to allow motorcyclists to ride without helmets to a bill that would require parental notification for abortion. So far, the Times reports, 71 percent of Benton's bills have gotten committee hearings—an increase since last biennium, when the Democrats were in control, of 35 percent. 

4. Frankly, we're a bit baffled by Crosscut's profile of the mayoral candidates, which characterizes Bruce Harrell as one of the race's "liberals" along with Peter Steinbrueck (who's drawn a core of lesser Seattle followers), Kate Martin, and current Mayor Mike McGinn, and predicts that only McGinn, state Sen. Ed Murray (apparently not a liberal?) and city council member Tim Burgess have a shot at making it through the primary.

We're not counting any of the serious candidates out just yet.

5. The Columbian reports that opponents of the Columbia River Crossing light rail project lost a major battle this week when Vancouver City Attorney Ted Gathe issued an opinion saying an initiative to prevent light rail on the new I-5 bridge from Vancouver to Portland falls outside the scope of the city's initiative powers.

The initiative, if approved, would have prevented the use of any city resources to extend light rail from Portland to Vancouver.