Morning Fizz

The Most Politically Important Reaction

By Morning Fizz November 21, 2011

Caffeinated news & gossip. Your daily Morning Fizz.

1. The city council passed the 2011-2012 budget with little fanfare yesterday, leaving much of Mayor Mike McGinn's proposed budget intact. Still, we could have declared the mayor a loser in yesterday's Jolt based on a few major McGinn proposals the council scuttled. (We went with Sen. Patty Murray and the supercommittee fail, which has the public pretty dismayed, instead)

As for McGinn's budget: First, the council rejected his proposal to merge the Office of Economic Development and Office of Housing into a super-housing-and-economic-development agency, opting instead to save money by abrogating some positions and reducing some full-time positions to half-time.

Second, the council reduced the amount of money McGinn proposed spending on emergency (e.g. snow) response by $500,000, putting that money into other transportation priorities.

Finally, the council opted to cut $700,000 from the $1.5 million McGinn proposed spending on streetcar planning, stipulating that the city can’t spend the rest of the money until the council is satisfied that the city has the money to extend the First Hill streetcar to Pioneer Square and has a plan to extend it north to Aloha on Capitol Hill.[pullquote]The most politically important reaction to Gregoire's proposal will come from the business community.[/pullquote]

2. Something else we skipped over when deciding on yesterday's Jolt was this bit of news: Another thumbs down for Protect Marriage Washington, the anti-gay rights group that's suing to keep the names of the people who signed its R-71 petition secret. (R-71 was the failed 2009 initiative to repeal domestic partnership rights.) The US Supreme Court said yesterday that the group could not block the release of the names while their case is under appeal in the 9th District Court.

This is the latest in a long list of losses for PMW in the case.

3. While Fizz is certainly interested in the legislature's response to Gov. Chris Gregoire's half-cent sales tax proposal (liberals in the senate tell us it needs to include a rebate for low-income residents), the most politically important reaction will come from the business community.

Why? Because last time, big business, particularly the American Beverage Association, went all in against the idea, raising $16 million to repeal the legislature's tax on soda and bottled water. Big business won with 60 percent of the vote.

Gauging the statements issued by the Association of Washington Business, Boeing, and Microsoft yesterday (the Tacoma News Tribune has a roundup), big business is not hostile to Gregoire's sales tax pitch, particularly because she's dedicating the majority of the money—$411 million out of $500 million—to stave off more cuts to education.

Here's yesterday's statement from Don Brunell, head of the AWB:
Today’s announcement seeking a temporary half-cent increase in the state sales tax is not surprising given the difficult situation we find ourselves in. We don’t envy the governor or the Legislature; this is not easy, and it will require tough, bipartisan action when legislators convene next week, and again in January,” said Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business.

The governor has reached out to us [AWB] to help solve this challenge, and we’ve told her we want to be a part of the solution. That means everything must be on the table —meaning reforms and revenue. Just as voters want to know every savings, every efficiency has been realized by state government, so do our members,” he added.

We’re anxious to see what other proposals will be coming out of Olympia in the coming days and weeks, and will be meeting with Gov. Gregoire and members of the Legislature to help craft solutions.

Meanwhile, Fizz has a call out to the beverage association and the Washington Roundtable, a political lobbying nonprofit that represents the state's CEOs, to get their take on Gregoire's proposal.

4. As we noted in our post about a proposed ban on disposable plastic bags yesterday, the punishment for restaurants and stores that violate the ban will be a fine of up to $500. But we wondered: How often will the fine really get levied? Based on Fizz's admittedly anecdotal experience getting takeout around the city, plenty of restaurants are still using the forbidden landfill-clogging containers, to no apparent negative consequence.

So we called Seattle Public Utilities to find out how many establishments have been fined for flouting the ban on foam. The answer, according to SPU waste prevention manager Dick Lilly: Two.

You read that right: In more than two years since the council enacted the ban, just two restaurants---Beacon Barbecue on Beacon Hill, and Pandasia in Interbay---have been cited for breaking the law. Both received a $513 fine, which Beacon Barbecue got reduced to $150, and Pandasia got reduced to $365.

The reason for the seemingly lackadaisical enforcement, Lilly says, is that investigations are largely complaint-based, and because SPU gives restaurants plenty of opportunity to get right with the law, sending at least two letters and visiting three times before issuing a ticket. "It's a long process," Lilly said.

5. Last Friday, US Rep. Jay Inlsee broke with his Democratic colleagues in Congress and voted with the Republicans in support of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Inslee was just one of 25 Democrats to vote for the measure. The legislation, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass, fell 23 votes short, 261-165.

The rest of Washington State's Democrats voted against the legislation and all of Washington State's Republicans, along with the bulk of their caucus, voted for it.

We have a message in to Inslee.

6. The two candidates vying for an open seat on the Bellevue City Council—pro-mass transit John Stokes and Kemper Freeman's preferred candidate, Aaron Laing—remained virtually tied yesterday, with just 73 votes separating them. (Stokes has a small lead, 49.97 to 49.73.)

A manual recount is automatically triggered in King County if the margin between two candidates is less than 150 votes (check) and if the margin is less than a quarter of one percent (check; the margin is currently 0.24 percent).
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