Morning Fizz

By An Amazing Coincidence

By Morning Fizz November 23, 2010

1. With several state house Democratic reps retiring or losing their reelection bids this year, some important committee chairs are open, including the chairs of: ways & means (the budget-writing committee); education; and labor.

State Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Medina) is angling to chair ways & means. The current chair, Rep. Kelli Linville (D-42, Western Whatcom), lost in November. (Although, footnote: Her race was so close, it's up for a recount.)

If Hunter takes over the powerful budgeting committee, his position as chair of finance (the committee which governs tax policy and where Hunter championed this year's tax increases) will be open. State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-37, S. Seattle), who recently lost her leadership position as Democratic whip, thanks in part to her dissident vote against last session's tax package, is rumored to want the finance chair too.

Rep. Marcie Maxwell (D-41, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Issaquah, Renton) is reportedly under consideration for education chair, which would be a victory for education reformers. Maxwell was one of the select house candidates who was endorsed by the Waiting for Superman crowd at Stand for Children during this year's election. (Santos, not much of a hero for reformers, has also been mentioned.)

Expect a labor lefty, such as Rep. Tami Green (D-28, Lakewood, W. Tacoma), Timm Ormsby (D-3, Spokane), or Seattle-area Rep. Zach Hudgins (D-11, S. Seattle, Burien, Sea-Tac, Renton) to take over the labor committee. The current chair, union stalwart Rep. Steve Conway (D-S. Tacoma), is off to the state senate.

2. In other state legislature news, Gov. Chris Gregoire sent a list of proposed budget cuts to state senate majority leader Sen. Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane) yesterday to deal with the $385 million budget shortfall for the remaining seven months of the current budget cycle.

Some of her proposed cuts:

  • Delay funding for college financial aid ($76 million)

  • Eliminate the Basic Health Plan on February 1 ($33.7 million)

  • Eliminate additional resources for K-4 ($81.5 million)

  • Reduce the school district levy equalization funds for poorer districts ($18 million)

  • Eliminate state food assistance on Feb. 1 ($9.6 million)

  • 3. A group called Seattle Pro-Leash is urging pet owners to boycott pet license fee increases. It's not because the group objects to the fee, though. It's because “the city should stop punishing the innocent and go after the guilty,” according to a press statement from Seattle Pro-Leash president Ellen Taft released yesterday.

    The group complains that the city allows scofflaws to get away without paying the fee and then punishes the 20 percent of responsible pet owners who do pay by jacking up license costs.

    Taft says 100 percent compliance from pet owners would bring in revenues of nearly $5 million—more than enough to cover Seattle Animal Control's $3.3 million operating costs.  With only about 24,000 pet owners paying up, though—totaling less than $1 million—the general fund has to make up the difference. In other words, non-pet owners have been subsidizing the bill.

    4. City Council president Richard Conlin's latest newsletter to constituents is ostensibly a primer on  the recent city budget. But you'd be forgiven for thinking it was really a political attack on Mayor Mike McGinn.

    Conlin mentions McGinn no fewer than 28 times, including an unusually (even by Conlin's standards) snarky aside about McGinn's proposal to spend an $8.5 million loan from the Museum of History and Industry to fix up Building 30 at Magnuson Park—money the council instead used to fund things like winter shelter hours, batterers intervention programs, child care services, and the police oversight auditor.

    Conlin elaborates:
    A curious sidelight to this year’s budget deliberations was a sudden flurry of activity relating to Hangar 30 at Magnuson Park. This has been a great venue for community events, but, like most of the buildings taken over from the Navy there, Building 30 needs substantial renovation in order to be available for long term use.

    For the last few years, Hangar 30 has been operating under a year-to-year permit that allows events to take place while renovation is proceeding. Unfortunately, a decision was made by the Mayor in October to limit the number of events in future years unless the building is completely renovated. While this does not affect some major events, like the library book sale, it will prevent many other events from happening.

    By an amazing coincidence this decision was announced along with a plan to renovate the building for some $8.5 million shortly after the Council announced that we had secured an advance of $8.5 million from MOHAI that will allow us to continue a number of services that the Mayor had cut from the 2011 budget. ...

    This closure had never been suggested to the Council, and it is not clear what the basis is for the projected costs for design and construction. The Mayor also projected more than half a million dollars in revenue if the renovation proceeded.

    The Council was not willing to accept this last minute suggestion that had not been analyzed or reviewed.
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