Morning Fizz

A Similar Tone

By Josh Feit April 12, 2012

Caffeinated News & Gossip. Your daily Morning Fizz.

1. The progressive group Fuse Washington issued early endorsements in some state races yesterday, including in Seattle's hotly contested 36th Legislative District (Ballard, Queen Anne) where a pack of Democrats are running to take retiring state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson's open seat. Fuse endorsed Progressive Majority executive director and founding Washington Bus board member Noel Frame.

Some other Fuse picks: They endorsed Bellevue attorney Cyrus Habib in the Microsoft suburban 48th, where he's running to replace retiring Rep. Deb Eddy; and liberal state Sen. Craig Pridemore (D-49, Vancouver) for state auditor. Pridemore is running against his fellow state legislator Rep. Mark Miloscia (D-30, Federal Way), a labor Democrat, but social conservative.

Read Fuse's full list of endorsements here.

2. We're still going through Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee's March contributions—more than $19,000 from an Eliot Spitzer, yuck,  fundraiser in New York—but one funny contribution jumped out at us.

Remember the big brouhaha that broke out in Feburary when we reported that big-time Democratic donor Nick Hanauer was thinking of supporting Republican Rob McKenna instead of Inslee because he complained that McKenna was out ahead of Inslee on education reform?

Well, Eric Liu, Hanauer's co-author on two political treatises—2007's The True Patriot and 2011's The Gardens of Democracy—contributed $1,250 to Inslee on March 21. (We have a message in to Liu.)[pullquote]Despite significant pressure from industry groups that sought to create a false choice between a healthy environment and strong economy, no significant rollbacks were enacted.[/pullquote]

Of course, as we reported after the February fundraising numbers came in, other Hanauer compatriots (and his mom) kicked in to Inslee just as the Hanauer story was blowing up. (Hanauer himself maxed out to Inslee last September, evidently before his feelings soured.)

3. Part of the big budget solution involved Gov. Chris Gregoire's $238 million find: Move the cash that's currently held in the state's local sale tax collection fund (before it's sent back to cities around the state) into the general fund to cover expenses. Reporters (including us) had a difficult time understanding how the move wasn't an accounting trick that books the same dollars twice. (The Seattle Times Andrew Garber had a hilarious piece—"State Budget Enters the Fourth Dimension"— where he tried to get Assistant State Treasurer Wolfgang Opitz to explain it.)

Fizz was talking with progressive state Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-44, Snohomish) yesterday, and he came up with the clearest explanation we've heard to date. He said the money isn't being spent while it's in the general fund, but it allows the state to spend down the rest of its money.

"Say you're buying a car," he said, "and you've got enough money in your account to put money down, but not much more. I lend you $1,000, and you put it in your account, and your credit checks out. You buy the car and then  you give me my money back." (The thing to also note here is that the minute the state sends the money back to the locals, a new collection from local sales tax is coming in.)

"The reason people like [Democratic house budget chair Rep. Ross Hunter, D-48, Medina] couldn't explain it to you guys," Dunshee, more of a working class schmoe than Microsoft Eastsider Hunter, quipped, "is because those guys don't have to budget like that in their own lives." Ha. Quote of the day.

4. A few more responses to the last-minute state budget deal, from a variety of interest groups:

First, the Association of Washington Business, which advocated for the original (K-12-cutting, pension-slashing) GOP budget:
In the process of negotiations, tax incentives for first mortgage deductions on large interstate banks were repealed and tobacco taxes extended to roll your own cigarette sales. On a positive note, lawmakers adopted a supplemental budget that is balanced and more sustainable for the next biennium.

One thing they don't mention: A proposal by Gov. Chris Gregoire to deregulate business and occupation taxes by centralizing B&O collections at the state level (which groups like the AWB supported and cities opposed on the grounds that they would lose millions in local tax collections) failed to make it through this year.

Next up, the Washington Environmental Council tries to stay glass-half-full after a session with few environmental gains:
At the beginning of the 2012 Legislative Session, there were over 75 bills that threatened to undo the laws that protect Washington’s environment. Despite significant pressure from industry groups that sought to create a false choice between a healthy environment and strong economy, no significant rollbacks were enacted. Our state’s environmental protections were maintained due to the efforts of legislative champions and significant grassroots pressure from people across Washington.

However, they do note that a big piece of environmental legislation with wide support---the toxic toys bill, which would have banned two cancer-causing flame retardants from children's products---failed.

And the lefty Washington Budget and Policy Center took a similar tone, noting in its statement on the budget that at least it spared poor and working Washingtonians from the worst of the proposed cuts to social, health and human services.

"While the worst of the cuts to these investments were avoided this time around, little progress was made to ensure future economic prosperity," the WBPC noted limply.

5.  State Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44, Lake Stevens), one of the six Democrats running in the 1st Congressional District, picked up a big labor endorsement yesterday: the Public School Employees of Washington/SEIU1948. Hobbs, a fiscally conservative Democrat and part of the Roadkill caucus of dissident Democrats, is typically seen as a bad guy by the unions (the Washington State Labor Council ran a candidate against him in 2010).

However, PSE liked Hobbs' pitch this session to consolidate the K-12 employee health plan; the teachers' union—as opposed to PSE's 26,000 support staff workers (janitors, bus drivers, clerical workers)—adamantly opposed the plan. which passed in a watered-down version.

“Steve Hobbs has demonstrated the courage to stand up for working families in Washington,” Reen Doser, a paraeducator in the Lake Stevens School District, said in a statement released by the Hobbs campaign. “Steve has worked hard in the state legislature to guarantee quality, affordable health coverage for our members. We need to see Steve Hobbs’ brand of leadership right now in Washington, D.C.”
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