1. The city's of Seattle's retirement fund, like pension funds across the nation, is suffering, posting a zero percent return in 2011. Overall, after years of lousy performance, the city's pension fund has $1.1 billion (that's "billion" with a "b") in "unfunded liabilities"---essentially, debt the city owes to retirees and doesn't have the cash to pay. Put in different terms, the city's unfunded pension liabilities represent two times the city's entire payroll.
Last year, the city agreed to fully fund all of its required contributions to retirees, a condition of maintaining its triple-A credit rating. What that means for the city is that within the next two years, pension payments will amount to 24 percent of the city's total payroll---ten percent from workers' paychecks, and 14 percent from city funds. The increase in the city's portion of pension payments will cost the city about $35 million a year---"funds that will not be available for City services, hiring new workers, COLAs, or other benefits," according to a city report. [pullquote]The increase in the city's portion of pension payments will cost the city about $35 million a year.[/pullquote]
The only alternative to losing those funds? Raising taxes (the city's portion of pensions comes from the general fund, utility taxes, and other public sources). Broken down by household, the shortfall works out to just over $3,800 for every family in Seattle.
2. Brad Toft---the Republican candidate running to replace retiring state Sen Cheryl Pflug (R-5)---has a well-documented history of conflicts with his former colleagues, including his failure to pay thousands of dollars in wages to an employee and swinging a baseball bat at another employee's head as a "joke."
Additionally, PubliCola has learned, Toft has been jailed at least once for failing to respond to bench warrants for a criminal traffic citation for driving with a suspended license in the mid-1990s, and received a suspended jail sentence of 90 days and a fine of $1,000, which eventually went to collections and was finally paid in full in 2002.
Toft did not return our call seeking comment about the case.
3. Immediately after gubernatorial candidates Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna stated their positions on the state's gun show loophole in Q&As with the Seattle Times earlier this week (Republican McKenna said he favored "some kind of background check" and Democrat Inslee said it "just doesn't pass the common-sense test" to sell guns and ammo at gun shows without background checks), the Washington State GOP fired a few rounds at Inslee.
Armed with an actual 1999 roll call vote showing that Inslee voted 'No' on a bill to close the gun show loophole (currently, there are no background checks at gun shows), the Republicans asked:
"So if the ex-Congressman supports closing the gun show 'loophole' now, why didn’t he support it while he was in Congress?"
Challenging Inslee's fortitude on gun control is an odd tactic for the GOP. Inslee (infamously to his Yakima constituents) stood up for gun control as a US rep from eastern Washington in 1994 by supporting the assault weapons ban—and quickly got booted from office.
So, Fizz checked in to the '99 vote.
It turns out there were a series of votes on the Republican bill leading up to the final vote, and Inslee voted with the Democrats to strengthen the bill, including his 'Yes' vote on a losing amendment sponsored by the house's leading gun control advocate, New York Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, that "sought to require individuals who wish to purchase firearms at a gun show to submit to a background check before they are able to complete their purchase and require a three business day period for completion of the background check."
That key amendment lost and Inslee ended up voting 'No' on final passage because the bill actually weakened gun control laws by shortening the period of time that law officials had to do background checks on gun shop purchases from three business days to 24 hours.