Archive for September, 2010

DSHS will lay off 380 workers, use furloughs and cut other services for 6.3 percent savings

By | September 29, 2010 | 0 Comments

The 6.3 percent across-the-board cuts to state government go into effect on Friday, so we’re starting to get information on where agencies will make those cuts. Today’s news comes from DSHS, the largest state agency. In a news release, the agency said it will cut 380 full time equivalent positions. DSHS already employs 2,000 fewer people than in 2008.

In addition to those cuts, DSHS will implement temporary layoffs, sending workers home one day per month without pay. Workers who are already subject to the 10 temporary layoffs (or furloughs) under last year’s budget cuts will take two additional furloughs for a total of 12.

As for other cuts? “Major reductions in state spending will come in long-term care services ($40 million), Disability Lifeline ($6.1 million), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for non-citizens ($7.2 million), Children’s Administration ($19.3 million) and Mental Health ($25.6 million).” There’s no word on precisely what those cuts will mean.

DSHS Secretary Susan Dreyfus said in the release that the cuts were difficult and “the rigidity of the way our budget is structured limited many of our choices,” she said, adding that this isn’t just a reduction, it’s the beginning of a reset.

For more information, visit the DSHS budget site here.

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Off the Set interview with proponent, opponent of Initiative 1053

By | September 29, 2010 | 0 Comments

Today’s Video Voters Guide Off the Set interviews are regarding Initiative 1053, which would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise taxes. Read all about the initiative here.

And watch the Video Voters Guide here.

Then, watch the interviews below with Jocelyn McCabe, who is a proponent of 1053:

And Pamela Keeley, who is against the measure:

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Watch “Shock to the System” here — and find out more

By | September 29, 2010 | 0 Comments

If you didn’t watch last night’s special report from The Impact on national healthcare reform — “Shock to the System” — you really missed out.

But it’s not too late: Watch the show below, read more here and then tune in to TVW tonight at 7 p.m. for the follow-up show, where host Jessica Gao will interview lawmakers about healthcare policy. Don’t miss it!

Washington health insurer drops new policies for children

By | September 28, 2010 | 0 Comments

theimpact_cropped150In response to a provision of the national health care reform law, Regence BlueShield announced it will stop selling policies for children under 19 starting on October 1. The Patient Accountability and Affordable Care Act prohibits insurers from discriminating against children based on pre-existing conditions.  That provision took effect on Thursday, September 23, along with several other new rules for insurers, including a ban on lifetime limits of coverage.

In a press release this morning, Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler criticized Regence’s decision.

“I’m appalled,” said Commissioner Kreidler. “We’ve made regulatory concessions to limit Regence’s exposure. Their overreaction will seriously harm Washington families.”

Regence is one of  the state’s largest insurers.  However, the impact of its decision is less severe here than it may be in other states.  Washington law requires insurers in the individual market to issue policies for an entire family. In some states, insurers can choose to issue separate policies for each member of the family.  Regence has about 2,500 child-only policies, and those will remain in tact.

“So far, no other health carrier in Washington state has signaled its intent to leave this market,” added Kreidler. “I hope we can expect better from them.”

This decision does not affect small/large group markets, where employers buy their insurance plans.

To learn more about the health care reform law and its impact here in Washington, check out The Impact Special Report – Shock to the System: How national reform is changing your health care. It airs tonight on TVW at 7 & 10 pm.  You can also find it online on our new website shocktothesystem.org.

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Tomorrow at 7 p.m.: Watch “Shock to the System” on TVW

By | September 27, 2010 | 0 Comments

Tuesday night at 7 p.m., “Shock to the System: How National Reform is Changing Your Health Care” will debut on TVW. Jessica Gao, host of The Impact, has spent the summer interviewing dozens of people for the one-hour documentary.

Below, watch a short promo for the documentary. Then, don’t forget to tune in tomorrow.

Find out more tomorrow at 7 p.m.

Initiative 1105: Off the Set interviews with Charla Neuman and Kelly Fox on liquor privatization

By | September 24, 2010 | 0 Comments

Initiative 1105 is the second liquor privatization effort that voters will face on the November ballot. What would it do? “Close all state liquor stores and license private parties to sell or distribute spirits,” according to the ballot description.

But there’s much more to both 1105 and 1100. Voters will need to decide whether to vote for 1100, 1105, neither — or both.

To that end, here’s the initiative text. Here are Kelly Fox and Charla Neuman’s Video Voters’ Guide statements. And here’s the post about the other liquor privatization initiative — I-1100.

First up, Charla Neuman, initiative sponsor:

Next up, Kelly Fox, who is opposed to Initiative 1105:

AWB policy summit: Alexander, Hunter discuss the budget, elections and more

By | September 22, 2010 | 0 Comments

Watch the annual Association of Washington Business policy summit live on the web here. TVW’s own Jessica Gao is moderating the panel.

So far, Rep. Gary Alexander has said he thinks budget writers should have been brought back to Olympia to decide budget cuts, rather than the across-the-board cuts Gov. Chris Gregoire implemented.

“If you look historically, we knew there was going to be a downturn in the economy,” Alexander said. “We could have started planning.”

Rep. Ross Hunter said he agrees that the “Rainy Day fund” was not large enough. But, he said, the legislature spent based on forecasts — forecasts that were approved unanimously every quarter.

When asked how they would structure government if they were starting from scratch, Alexander said he’d like to reduce the number of people who need — or feel they need — state services. Hunter said he would reduce natural resources agencies into one and streamline other areas of government as well.

Neither Alexander nor Hunter were willing to predict what the House and Senate will look like — in terms of the number of Republicans and Democrats — for the 2011 legislative session. Alexander said he predicts a jump in Republican members in the House, but didn’t give specifics. “I’m very encouraged,” he said, but “the numbers will be a lot closer than they are now and that’s healthier.”

Gates, McIlwain on Initiative 1098: Off the Set interview

By | September 20, 2010 | 0 Comments

Initiative 1098 is the latest in the spotlight in the Video Voters’ Guide Off the Set interviews.

Here, Bill Gates, Sr. and Matt McIlwain talk about Initiative 1098 — which would create a high earners income tax in the state.

Here‘s the full text of the bill, here‘s where you can look up the financial impact, and here’s the complete Video Voters’ Guide at TVW. Without further delay, here are the Video Voters’ Guide statements for 1098:

And here’s Bill Gates, Sr., who supports 1098, in his Off the Set interview:

Here’s Matt McIlwain, who opposes 1098, in his interview:

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Watch Gary Locke’s speech to the Seattle Chamber of Commerce here

By | September 20, 2010 | 0 Comments

Here’s former governor and current Commerce Secretary Gary Locke’s speech to the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce last week:

It will also be playing on TVW this week.

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Today at noon: Gary Locke will talk to Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce

By | September 17, 2010 | 0 Comments

Today at noon, former governor — and current Secretary of Commerce — Gary Locke will deliver the keynote address to the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce’s 128th annual meeting.

Locke will discuss the Obama administration’s job creation plan and the importance of promoting trade, environmental stewardship and entrepreneurship.

If you can’t make it to the meeting, don’t worry: TVW will be there and we’ll play it on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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Off the Set interview on Initiative 1100

By | September 17, 2010 | 1 Comments

This week (and after resolving a few technical glitches), we’ve got an Off the Set interview with proponents and opponents of Initiative 1100 — one of two liquor privatization measures. Initiative 1100 would close liquor stores and allow private businesses to import, distribute and sell liquor.

There’s much more to it. First, watch the Video Voters Guide here. Then read the entire initiative here, check out the financial impact here. Then, watch these videos with Ashley Bach and Jim Cooper.

Revenue Forecast: $770 million less this biennium

By | September 16, 2010 | 0 Comments

Arun Raha is presenting the Economic and Revenue Forecast now. Watch live on TVW.

He said the projection will be weaker. Update this page throughout the meeting for more updates.

“What is plaguing the economy is uncertainty,” he said. “What happened to the economy in May, June and July — when growth slowed to where it was barely noticeable — was one of those unknown unknowns,” he said, which makes “forecasters look bad.”

“We expect the economy to muddle along with modest growth. And though the risk of a double-dip has increased, we do not believe it will happen,” he said. “Nevertheless, we now expect the weaker economic outlook to reduce revenue collections by $770 million this biennium,” he said and a total of $1.39 billion through June 2013.

“Consumers are understandably hesitatn to spend,” he said. Household net worth dropped $18 trillion during the recession. Households have recovered $6 trillion of that — but there’s still a ways to go.

“We expect confidence to improve as the unemployment rate starts to drop,” he said. When will that be? Job growth is weaker than expected (though stronger than the national average), and government layoffs are offsetting private sector gains.

“The jobs recovery this time around has been slower than in any of the previous four recessions,” he said. “And if we compound that with the fact that the hole we’re in is also the toughest,” he said, then you have trouble. (more…)

On The Impact tonight: State budget, the economy and union negotiations

By | September 15, 2010 | 0 Comments

theimpact_cropped150On The Impact tonight, host Jessica Gao talks to the state’s top economist, Arun Raha, about the economy. Raha says he still doesn’t think the state is headed for a “double dip” recession, but he does see the state’s economy lagging for the next several years.

Raha will deliver his quarterly Economic and Revenue Forecast tomorrow. Watch live on TVW at 10 a.m.

Jessica also talks to Marty Brown, Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget director. Brown talked about negotiations with state labor unions — Gregoire wants state workers to chip in more for their health insurance coverage. Currently, state workers pay 12 percent and the state picks up 88 percent of the cost.

Watch all of that tonight — and much more — on The Impact. It airs at 7 and 10 p.m. on TVW.

Unemployment rate holds steady for August

By | September 15, 2010 | 0 Comments

The unemployment rate in Washington is holding steady at 8.9 percent, according to the Employment Security Department.

That leaves more than 310,000 people in Washington unemployed and looking for work. More than 235,000 of those received unemployment benefits.

Health services, manufacturing, information, financial activities, hospitality and wholesale trade all added jobs in the month. Government, transportation, services, retail trade and construction, however, were all down. The full report is here.

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Supreme Court fall docket starts today – watch live on TVW

By | September 14, 2010 | 0 Comments

The Supreme Court started their fall docket today – kicking off the calendar with a case involving the Seattle Times. For the next two months, they’ll hear dozens of cases from around the state. Read more about those cases here.  

And, of course, you can watch: TVW covers every single Supreme Court session live on www.TVW.org – just click on live programming to watch.

 

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Gregoire: Thursday will likely bring 7 percent cuts or higher

By | September 13, 2010 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire just held a press conference in her office to discuss her trade mission to Asia and the upcoming Economic and Revenue Forecast. Here are some notes and quotes:

On the Revenue Forecast:

- Gregoire signed an executive order today that dictates what across-the-board cuts should be made to correspond with a drop in the revenue forecast. She earlier called for agencies to ready for 4 to 7 percent cuts. Now, she said, she thinks it could be more dire.

- “I don’t see 10 percent, but I do think it’s above 7 percent,” she said. She also said there’s “no question in my mind” that the news on Thursday will be bad.

- A 1 percent cut is equal to $82 million, she said.

- “Assuming we’re going to see some better (economic) trends, I don’t expect it this year.”

- Podiatry, hospice care: “Some of these programs are going to be gone this year.” (more…)

Traffic, construction and more: Watch this morning’s transportation accountability session

By | September 9, 2010 | 0 Comments

This morning, Gov. Chris Gregoire will hold a GMAP forum on transportation, where Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond will face questions.

GMAP sessions are meant to ensure accountability in state government by measuring performance — publicly. See the full schedule and read more about it here. Today’s transportation forum will start at 8:30 a.m. and last one hour, and you can watch the whole thing live on TVW’s webcast here.

State’s top economist: Uncertainty is slowing economic growth to “an agonizing crawl.”

By | September 3, 2010 | 0 Comments

Dr. Arun Raha, the state’s chief economic forecaster, is delivering the quarterly state economic review now. Watch live on TVW or keep up here.

“Since our last forecast, the economic recovery has slowed to an agonizing crawl,” he said. He said the risk of a double dip recession has increased, but he still doesn’t believe it will happen.

He said the equity market is weak, which could foretell economic weakness to come. Ditto for bond markets. “I do not believe, though, that we are at risk for getting into a Japan-like economic spiral,” he said. The two economies are different and the Fed acted more quickly, among other factors.

Raha said GDP growth in the second quarter was revised to 1.6 percent.

He said private sector job growth in Washington is similar to national averages, but that state and local jobs have dropped off. Consumer confidence is still down, he said, but they expect it to improve as unemployment rates drop.

“Just before the recession, household revolving debt was growing at an annualized 10 percent per month. Now it is shrinking at approximately the same rate.” What’s that mean? Pre-recession, people were accumulating more debt than they could pay off. Now, they’re cutting back.

“Corporate profits are back up to pre-recession levels,” he said — a bit of good news. “Even a small increase in demand could translate to jobs,” he said, because productivity gains are slowing. That means increased demand would lead to more workers needed.

Other good news: The asset quality of Washington’s regional banks is improving.

Bad news: Housing data is disappointing. “Single family permits are now down,” he said, and previous gains were “clearly due” to the tax credits offered by the federal government. He said housing construction won’t reach pre-recession levels anytime in the state’s six-year forecast window.

He said home remodels are expected to increase this year and into 2011, which is good news for the out-of-work construction workers. He said today’s remodelers are more frugal and aim to make a low-quality house sellable.

Outlook for aerospace is similar to June’s forecast: Sustained but moderate gains, he said, beginning next year. Ditto for software: “We expect modest software employment growth through 2011,” and picking up in 2012. Those two industries make up a substantial chunk of the state’s economy, he said, and 5 percent of the workforce.

“In conclusion, I wish I had better news to give you but I don’t.”

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Q&A video edition: Initiative 1082

By | September 2, 2010 | 0 Comments

Here’s a special video Q&A on Initiative 1082 — with Amy Brackenberry, who is in favor of the initiative, and Rep. Brendan Williams, who is against it. This is the first of many such video Q&As about initiatives that I’ll be posting in the coming days — so stay tuned.

First: To get acquainted with 1082, which would allow private companies to offer workers’ compensation insurance, here are a few sites:
Here is the text of Initiative 1082.
And here’s where you can find the financial impact and more.

First, the pro-1082 Q&A with Brackenberry:

Next, the anti-1082 interview with Williams:

Seattle, Spokane, Weyerhauser — and the state of Washington — will receive federal funding for healthcare

By | September 1, 2010 | 0 Comments

The state of Washington, City of Seattle, and more than 30 other employers will receive federal funds to help provide healthcare options for retired workers not yet eligible for Medicare.

What’s that mean for the state? About $60 million in savings over two years, according to the Health Care Authority.

From Healthcare.gov: “Businesses, other employers, and unions that are accepted into the program will receive reimbursement for medical claims for early retirees and their spouses, surviving spouses, and dependents. Savings can be used to reduce employer health care costs, provide premium relief to workers and families, or both. Applicants who are approved into the program receive reinsurance for the claims of high-cost retirees and their families (80 percent of the costs from $15,000 to $90,000).”

The program will end in 2014, when state health insurance exchanges are created through the federal healthcare reform.

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