Monday morning's headlines

Jan 10, 2011

Making headlines today:

  • Legislature convenes today
  • State worker job losses add up
  • Seahawks get Chicago next

'Privatize' May Be Session's Buzzword

The state legislature convenes today for a session expected to be remembered for its bruising impact on programs to help the low-income and public education and transportation.  The Seattle's Chris Grygiel reports lawmakers will be looking at all options as they tackle a $4.6 billion budget deficit.

Grygiel writes one option may be to privatize some state functions, including the ferry system:

"We like privatization, quite frankly," Sen. Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, said Friday at a CityClub legislative preview. "If you can figure out how the state can own the infrastructure...the devil is in the details."

Last week, Gov. Chris Gregoire presented her plan to get the state out operating ferry business, aside from providing subsidies.  Gregoire says the system's ongoing budget woes need a major fix. Instead of privatization, she would create a nine-county regional district, controlled by local governments. As we reported last week, the idea has not been well-received by Puget Sound's state and local leaders.

The session is scheduled to last into April. On Tuesday, Gregoire will give her 'State of the State' speech. 


Public Worker Job Losses Add Up

More than 6,000 public employees have lost their jobs since 2008, according to official state head counts analyzed in this morning's News Tribune. Most of the job losses are among workers outside the Olympia area, and include employees in across state agencies, colleges and universities.

Trib reporter Brad Shannon compiled the stats, and got reaction from lawmakers, including Thurston County Democrat Karen Fraser, who said:

There are a lot of people who somehow think state government has not shrunk. It has. … It grew and now it’s shrinking. A lot of agencies are talking about being back at the level they were years ago.

Thurston County has shed more than 1,000 government jobs, and many agencies are approaching pre-2006 employment levels. Shannon reports lawmakers, who convene for the 2011 legislative session today, say more cuts are coming:

“We have not reached the bottom of state government employment numbers. We are going to have to take further reductions in the remainder of this biennium and next biennium before we see a turnaround,” Republican Rep. Gary Alexander of Thurston County said. 

The state's Office of Financial Management predicts another 1,600 K-12 education jobs will go if Gov. Gregoire's proposed budget is approved.


Seahawks Get the Bears

After their stunning win over the New Orleans Saints, Seattle will take their underdog status on the road to Chicago in the next round of the NFL playoffs.  That game was set after Green Bay defeated Philadelphia on Sunday.  The Seahawks beat the Bears early in the season, a win Sportspress Northwest's Steve Rudman called one of the few 'quality' wins this season.  

Oddsmakers still don't like the Seahawks' chances next Sunday morning. They give the Bears a 10-point advantage, according to Danny O'Neil in The Seattle Times.  By the way, it's the same point spread New Orleans was given in the wild-card game. Just saying.