Once again, Sound Transit demonstrates that the public should not trust the agency to provide accurate cost estimates.
Both Republican and Democrat legislators are frustrated with Governor Jay Inslee’s flawed COVID-19 vaccination plan, which they believe will keep Washington State schools closed for the remainder of the school year. In a letter signed by the leaders of both the Republican and Democrat caucuses in the state House and Senate (the so-called “Four Corners”), legislators urged the governor and Secretary of Health Umair Shah to revise the state’s vaccination plans to ensure all school personnel are vaccinated by the end of February, so students can return to the classroom. Currently, the governor’s plan allows educators over the age of 50 to receive the vaccine in February, while those younger than 50 must wait until April to receive their first dose. Even if the state’s vaccination plan stays on schedule (and that is a big “if” considering how poorly the Inslee Administration has thus far dispensed the vaccine), it would mean an overwhelming majority of school workers would not receive their second vaccination dose (and thus become protected from obtaining COVID) until May. The letter states “This is unacceptable.” While Governor Inslee makes public remarks that he is supportive of parents who want schools to resume in-person instruction, his actions show that he is still under the thumb of the Washington Education Association and the union’s desire to keep schools closed this year unless massive financial concessions are granted its dues-paying members. (”Four Corners” letter to Governor Inslee and Bloomberg)
Reports out of Olympia indicate that many Republican members are alarmed about the lack of transparency in the rules and procedures the Democrats have enacted for the current “virtual” legislative session. There will likely be more concerns as members begin working under the new rules, but there are two that have already raised eyebrows. The first one is the amendment to Senate Rule 49, which states that if a House committee has already held a public hearing on a companion bill, any Senate committee can vote in executive session to eliminate the public hearing requirement during their own deliberations of the bill. Thus, if the full House adds amendments to a bill that were not discussed by the House committee, there could be no public hearing on these amendments once the bill made it to the Senate. It also means that Senators cannot ask questions of those (specifically special interest groups) who support or oppose a bill.
The second concern is over the public availability of the list of those who have signed in to provide public testimony. Prior to the new virtual format, those who were interested in testifying before a committee on a specific bill would sign in on a public list in the hearing room, a list available to both the committee members and the public. Since current rules require people to register online if they want to provide virtual testimony, it is unclear if all committee members and the public will have access to the list, perhaps to see what their chances are of getting to testify publicly (and how long a wait that may be). The committee chair determines who can speak at hearings, as it has always been. If the list of those requesting to speak is not made public, there is no way to know if the committee chair is favoring or ignoring specific viewpoints. (Senate Resolution 8600 – Rule 49 and Washington Policy Center rules on virtual public testimony)
The Seattle Times editorializes that state lawmakers should “set a high bar” for any new fees or taxes, and that legislators “should be especially skeptical of Governor Jay Inslee’s budget proposals” to increase taxes when they are not needed to maintain state services. The Times states, “Pain endures for many households, and recovery is uncertain for most employers. Yet the overall strength of Washington’s economy is providing ample tax dollars to balance the state budget and more. This precarious situation should make legislators wary of any new tax or fee proposal.” (Seattle Times)
The Walla Walla Union Bulletin is also critical of Governor Inslee’s plan to unnecessarily increase state revenues by imposing new taxes. The paper states that lawmakers should refrain from increasing the size of the state budget, as it would negatively impact the many families and small businesses who are attempting to recover. The paper is especially critical of Governor Inslee’s proposal for a state income tax on capital gains. The paper states, “While we believe it’s the wrong time for any tax hike or new tax, a capital-gains tax is particularly onerous as it is an income tax, which is not allowed under the state constitution.” (Walla Walla Union Bulletin)
The Loren Culp campaign continues to soak money from its supporters, as Culp’s main consultant continues to (get paid to) make unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 gubernatorial race was stolen, despite Culp losing by more than 500,000 votes and his election loss being certified in late November. Las Vegas-based consultant Christopher Gergen received $27,500 from the Culp campaign in December, and announced last week he was forming a new Political Action Committee (as his latest vehicle to make drive-by solicitations of Culp supporters). The new PAC, which lists Gergen as the Executive Director (and does not include Culp in a leadership role), appears to continue Culp’s post-election strategy of making false accusations at individuals across the political spectrum in an attempt to keep false conspiracies alive in order to raise even more money. (Washington Observer)
While Shift normally concentrates on state and local issues, we could not pass up on this latest piece of hypocrisy from Seattle Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. Let us start by saying no one should celebrate another getting infected by COVID-19, and we wish all of those afflicted (and impacted) by this hideous virus a swift recovery. That said, the extremely liberal representative from Seattle announced earlier today that she has the coronavirus, and she (without any evidence) blames Republican lawmakers who were not wearing masks while sequestered with her during the siege of the House chambers by Trump supporters last Wednesday. Yet, a two-and-a-half-minute CBS News video shows Jayapal herself was not wearing a mask shortly before she was whisked away to the secure location where she is sure she was infected. So, why no mask needed in the gallery, but mask needed in secure location? Typical of many liberals who first blame others for mistakes they have made. (Daily Caller and CBS News)
The latest cost overruns announced by Sound Transit are leading many people to wonder if the public should ever again trust cost estimates from the agency. Sound Transit’s CEO Peter Rogoff announced that there are $4.8 billion to $6.2 billion in cost overruns on the West Seattle and Ballard Link extensions, Tacoma Dome Link extension, and South King County Maintenance Facility. This represents a 70% increase over original costs. Rogoff attempted to downplay these mind-blowing cost estimate failures, from the agency he is paid $380,000 a year to lead, by saying, “these numbers are sobering, they’re not catastrophic.” This arrogance leads many to wonder how many billions should the taxpayers be forced to pay for Sound Transit’s failures for Rogoff to consider them “catastrophic?” A report from the Washington Policy Center shows that major cost overruns have become normal procedure for Sound Transit, which promises big during campaigns, and delivers small when it delivers at all. Previously the agency had announced more than $1.2 billion in cost overruns for the Federal Way, Lynnwood, and East links. This is yet another demonstration that nearly all big government initiatives spectacularly fail to meet the promises (on climate change, homelessness, transportation, equality, education, poverty, health costs, etc.) that liberal politicians make when they are demanding we pass them. But they all do increase the size of government, and thus more government employee union dues to flow into Democrat politicians’ campaigns. (Washington Policy Center)
In yet another example of significant transportation changes due to more people working from home, the Washington State Ferry System reported the fewest annual riders in over 45 years. The system experienced a 41% decline in car passengers (10 million customers) in 2020, over 2019 numbers, and saw a severe drop in walk-on riders. The loss of daily commuters and tourists created an 80% drop in walk-on passengers. (MyNorthwest)
The Canadian and United States governments have extended the ban on non-essential travel across the border to February 21st. The ban was first put in place on March 21st of last year, in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (News Tribune)
Due to its uniqueness in geography, Point Roberts has lost 80% of its business due to Canadian and Washington State COVID-19 restrictions. Point. Roberts is a small U.S. community (population 1,400) that sits at the end of a peninsula connected to British Columbia, just north of Bellingham. Due to border restrictions, the town has lost 85% of the business it usually receives from Canadians. Local businesses have said they are willing to pay for rapid testing at the border to allow Canadians to cross over the border. (Seattle PI)
A group of Spokane community leaders is encouraging the City of Spokane to follow through on a voter-approved 2019 ballot measure to “conduct open and transparent collective bargaining talks with city unions.” Government union officials have failed comply with the law and have even threatened that a “bar room brawl just may break out in the streets.” The community leaders informed city leaders that if public collective bargaining does not take place then it “could open the city up to further legal action.” And lawyers don’t brawl, in the streets or otherwise, for cheap. (Washington Policy Center)
Moses Lake business community leaders strongly support the bi-partisan State Senate bill to reopen Washington businesses. The bill (SB 5114), which was introduced by Senator John Braun (R – Centralia) and Senator Mark Mullet (D – Issaquah), would allow businesses that are currently restricted by Governor Inslee’s orders to safely reopen under Phase 2 guidelines. (Columbia Basin Herald)
The Yakima County Commissioners are following up on their proclamation asking Governor Inslee to allow local jurisdictions to have more say on how and when activities can resume, by preparing a legal challenge to the governor’s orders. While the governor’s office says it had been in contact with local leaders before issuing his random “Roadmap to Recovery” orders, local officials state the communication never took place. The governor’s office, which has played partisan politics at nearly every opportunity during the pandemic, says the commissioners’ actions are “politics, plain and simple.” A spokesman for the governor’s office then insulted the intelligence of local officials by stating, “This board is out of touch with basic realities of the pandemic and specifically how it has hurt their constituents. They should follow the science, stop making vague threats of frivolous lawsuits, and commit to serving all of their residents.” Or the spokesperson could advise his boss to follow the science, stop making vague partisan threats, and commit to working with the people’s elected representatives. (Yakima Herald)
Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington State Department of Transportation want to track everything you do. Gov. Inslee and WSDOT bureaucrats hate the fact you are able to drive when and where you want to. The bureaucrats believe they should be able to restrict where you live, and make you use the buses and trains they provide to get to work and visit your family. They want to tax you more when you do something that they do not approve of, and fine you when you do something they deem “un-mutual”. (Shift Article)
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