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State lawmakers skip drama, cut budget by millions

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The state Legislature raced through millions of dollars in budget cuts during a special session Saturday aimed at reducing the $1.1 billion shortfall in the current state budget.

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By Andrew Garber

Seattle Times Olympia bureau

Gov. Chris Gregoire

Gov. Chris Gregoire


OLYMPIA — There were no throngs of protesters chanting on the Capitol steps Saturday. And no political meltdowns in the House or Senate as the Legislature raced through millions of dollars in budget cuts during a one-day special session.

The angry clashes often seen when state programs get axed were replaced with resignation that resistance was futile.

“It’s a done deal,” Nick Federici, a lobbyist with Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, said while waiting outside the House chamber. “We can scream bloody murder, and it really isn’t going to change the outcome.”

Lawmakers finished their work with unusual speed. They started at 9 a.m. and by midafternoon had passed all the legislation on the table aimed at reducing a $1.1 billion shortfall in the current budget, which runs through June.

Actions taken by the Legislature and governor are expected to trim the shortfall by about $700 million.

The cuts will hit higher education, K-12 schools, social services, state prisons and other programs.

The debates on the budget bills Saturday were short, and legislation making the biggest cuts passed with large bipartisan majorities. The House voted 86 to 6, and the Senate 30 to 9, on the key budget measure, House Bill 3225.

“I’m very proud of what the Legislature was able to do today and how they did it. I think it’s historic, the bipartisan way in which they stood up to the most challenging time in 80 years,” Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire said shortly after the Legislature adjourned. “I’m hoping they have built up a momentum that candidly shows the rest of the country how to get it done.”

Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, didn’t sound as confident when interviewed after the last Senate vote.

“This is an aberration,” he said of how smoothly lawmakers completed their work Saturday. “These were decisions that had to be made because of the shortness of time, and when we get into regular session (in January) I would not see this amicable love ship forever.”

Bipartisan opposition

Not everyone was willing to vote for the cuts. There was opposition in both parties.

Departing Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, voted against the reductions, arguing lawmakers should look to eliminate certain tax loopholes and giveaways to raise more money. Oemig lost to a Republican in the November election.

“Today, what this bill does, it’s going to cut welfare for kids, for families,” he said during the debate. “It’s going to cut school funding. And it’s not asking anyone else to sacrifice. That’s just not right.”

Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City, also was a no vote, saying in a statement the Legislature did not go far enough. “The budget reductions taken will, at best, only marginally begin to help the state’s fiscal situation. … This is a very poor start, considering the even larger budget deficits the state will be facing in January.”

Most lawmakers said the cuts are just the beginning, noting tax collections continue to fall below expectations due to the ongoing economic slowdown.

State officials are projecting at least a $4.6 billion budget gap in the next two-year budget, which is expected to result in even steeper cuts when the Legislature meets again next month.

“This is probably the easiest of all the decisions we’re going to have to make as we move into January,” said Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Zarelli voted for the cuts.

That’s what has health-care, social-service and education advocates worried.

“There’s a real fear out there that this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Sandeep Kaushik, a spokesman for a coalition of health-care and social-service advocates.

“The Legislature needs to take a balanced approach to this unprecedented situation,” he said. “What I’m suggesting is that they also take a look at reforming tax exemptions and closing some of these worst tax exemptions.”

Tax hikes not on table

Tax increases aren’t being considered. An initiative passed by voters last month requires a two-thirds vote of lawmakers or a vote of the public to raise taxes.

The complex agreement lawmakers approved Saturday was hammered out by Gregoire and the Democratic and Republican leadership earlier in the week.

The deal includes $208 million in federal education aid granted by Congress this year, plus a mix of cuts and raiding of accounts outside the general fund. Local school districts had hoped to use the federal money to help offset additional cuts expected in the next two-year budget.

Gregoire also is expected to make additional, across-the-board cuts in the current budget that don’t require legislative approval.

Lawmakers cut $51 million from universities and colleges, including $11 million from the University of Washington, $7 million from Washington State University and $2 million from Western Washington University.

The reductions come on top of earlier cuts made during the last budget approved by the Legislature.

“For the students probably in the winter quarter and spring quarter, we’ll cut back on class offerings more so than we have already,” said Randy Hodgins, UW’s vice president of external affairs. “We will make sections in large lecture classes bigger than they already are. They will not have as much access to TAs (teaching assistants), which is something they’re already complaining about. Advising, police services, equipment purchases … it’s more diminishment.”

The cuts also include $50 million from K-12 education, $48 million from the Department of Corrections and millions more from social-service programs.

Disability Lifeline, a temporary safety net for the disabled poor, is expected to reduce the cash grant for each recipient in the program from $339 a month to $258. And the state expects to save money on the Basic Health Plan, which provides subsidized insurance for the working poor, by not filling slots as people leave the program.

The state Department of Revenue also is expected to bring in more than $40 million in additional revenue with various efforts, including a tax-amnesty program that would waive interest and penalties from Feb. 1 through May 31 of next year for companies that agree to pay their back taxes.

Andrew Garber: 360-236-8266 or agarber@seattletimes.com


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State budget cuts

State budget cuts approved by the Legislature on Saturday include:$50 million from public schools, including the elimination of funding to keep class sizes smaller in K-4 classrooms.

$51 million from higher education, including $11.4 million from the University of Washington, $7.5 million from Washington State University, $2 million from Western Washington University and $26.4 million from community and technical colleges.

$12.3 million from Disability Lifeline, a program that provides cash payments to the disabled poor. Monthly payments will drop from $339 to $258.

$27.7 million by reducing enrollment in the Basic Health Plan, a subsidized insurance program for the working poor. The state won’t fill slots as they come open.

$48.4 million from the Department of Corrections, including the closure of the McNeil Island Corrections Center.

Reducing payments to health-care centers that receive federal money.

Reducing emergency payments to families in need but not on welfare. One-time payments will drop from $1,250 to $1,000.

Eliminating nonemergency adult dental care for the poor.

$13.8 million by extending last year’s furloughs for state employees to include all Department of Social and Health Services employees, and requiring them to take two additional furlough days.

$17 million from natural-resources programs, including $5.8 million from the Department of Ecology.

A 6.2 percent across-the-board reduction in the governor’s office, the budget office, the Legislature, the judiciary and the offices of separately elected statewide officials.

Source: Washington State Senate Democrats,

Washington State Legislature

What’s next

The week, Gov. Chris Gregoire will roll out her proposals to cut at least $4.6 billion from the next two-year budget, which runs through June 2013. She’s also expected to propose how to solve what remains of the shortfall in the current budget.

On Jan. 10, the Legislature will convene for a scheduled 105-day session to finish plugging the hole in the current budget and write a new two-year budget.

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Gregoire calls special legislative session to cut budget

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Gov. Chris Gregoire says she’ll call a special legislative session before Christmas to deal with a projected $1.1 billion state budget shortfall for the current fiscal year.

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By Andrew Garber

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire says she’ll call a special legislative session before Christmas to deal with a projected $1.1 billion state budget shortfall for the current fiscal year.

The governor made the announcement Monday afternoon after meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders from the House and Senate. No date has been set yet.

She gave legislative leaders until Thursday afternoon to give her a date they can agree on.

“I made it clear we’re going into special session,” Gregoire said. “I just want to know from them what day they want to come in. I’d like them to come in, get the job done and go home.”

Gregoire said she suggested this Friday “and they were a little bit reticent. I want to defer to them,” she said.

What happens if they can’t agree on a day?

“I’ll give them a day,” Gregoire said.

House and Senate lawmakers will be in Olympia this week for committee meetings to get up to speed on issues they expect to face during their regular session, which starts in January.

Democratic and Republican leaders have given Gregoire lists of possible budget cuts to help balance the current spending plan. Gregoire has developed her own list, as well.

The governor says a special session is warranted because last month’s revenue forecast showed tax collections falling below projections.

Overall, the state expects to bring in around $900 million less in revenue this fiscal year, which runs through next June. Costs of state programs — primarily health care for the poor — also have risen, bringing the shortfall for this fiscal year to $1.1 billion.

In addition to the current budget gap, the projected shortfall for the next two-year budget is around $5.7 billion. Gregoire said she doesn’t expect to solve the entire budget problem for the current fiscal year in a special session, but wants to tackle a big chunk of the shortfall.

“What I’m asking them to come in and do, is take some early action on a number of issues so we can advance the ball dramatically,” she said.

Gregoire said lawmakers need to brief their caucuses before agreeing to a date.

Republicans said they’re ready to go anytime.

“We know there’s a problem and that we have to be part of the solution,” said House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis. “We’re going to team up, and we’re going to be part of the solution.”

Andrew Garber: agarber@seattletimes.com or 360-236-8268

 

 

Voter fraud watch: They’re at it again

Here we go again. Desperation plus the by-any-means-necessary credo plus a nationwide force of Alinsky avengers equals another recipe for voter fraud.

In Colorado, it’s Common Cause of Colorado, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and the Service Employees International Unioncaught in an apparent scheme to foist some 6,000 shady voter registrations on the state:

 

A federal judge declined to force the secretary of state to reactivate approximately 6,000 new voters whose registrations were canceled under Colorado’s 20-day rule.

In a decision issued Monday, Senior U.S. District Judge John L. Kane denied a motion for a preliminary injunction that was requested by several labor and voting-rights groups.

When a new voter registers in Colorado, the secretary of state mails a nonforwardable notice of disposition that the voter’s registration has been received. If the notice comes back undeliverable in the mail, then clerks deem the voter’s registration inactive within 20 days.

Melody Mirbaba, an assistant attorney general, argued that the 20-day rule is designed to stop voter fraud and duplicate registrations.

 

In Arizona, it’s illegal alien amnesty-supporting, SEIU-tied Mi Familia Vota again and One Vote Arizona submitting massive, last-minute voter registrations. The race between rocket scientist Ruth McClung and open-borders radical Raul Grijalva is down to the wire. Maria Carvajal at Publius Pundit reports:

 

The Yuma Sun is reporting that two organizations — Mi Familia Vota and One Vote Arizona — submitted more than 3000 voter registrations in Yuma County, and more than 20,000 voters statewide. Even more, they have signed up 43,000 people statewide for the permanent early voter list.

What they didn’t tell you is that voter fraud on a massive scale could be taking place, ostensibly to help Raul Grijalva keep the congressional seat he holds by stealing the election.

Here’s what the article doesn’t tell you, by a source in the Yuma County Recorder’s Office:

* These 3000 voter registration forms were all dropped off at once by the one group on the deadline to turn in voter registration forms.
* Almost all of the registrations were for the Democratic Party, a statistical improbability at best.
* Today, these same 3000 newly registered voters — as a group — had papers dropped off at the Yuma Recorder’s office requesting to be signed up for the permanent early voters list… which means the ballots will be mailed early, with no accountability.
* The Yuma Recorder’s office is checking the voter registration forms and have found that already more than 65% of them are invalid due to the registrant not being a citizen, wrong/invalid address, false signature, etc.

Now, the question is: is voter fraud taking place in Yuma County… and is it taking place on an even bigger scale in Pima County?

So far, the partisan Democrat in charge of the Pima County Recorder’s Office, F. Ann Rodriguez, has been completely silent about any such activity, though certainly even just a few thousand votes could change the outcome of the race between rocket scientist Ruth McClung and boycotter Raul Grijalva.

 

In Washington state, it’s illegal alien amnesty-supporting OneAmerica Votes sending illegal alien canvassers out to drum up votes:

 

When Maria Gianni is knocking on voters’ doors, she’s not bashful about telling people she is in the country illegally.

She knows it’s a risk to advertise this fact to strangers — but it’s one worth taking in what she sees as a crucial election.

The 42-year-old is one of dozens of volunteers — many of them illegal immigrants — canvassing neighborhoods in the Seattle area trying to get naturalized citizens to cast a ballot for candidates like Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, who is in a neck-and-neck race with Republican Dino Rossi.

Pramila Jayapal, head of OneAmerica Votes, says the campaign is about empowering immigrants who may not feel like they can contribute to a campaign because they can’t vote.

“Immigrants really do matter,” Jayapal said. “If we can’t vote ourselves, we’re gonna knock on doors or get family members to vote.”

 

In Florida, it’s suspected absentee ballot fraud — from within a city commissioner’s office:

 

When police raided Daytona Beach City Commissioner Derrick Henry’s office this week and seized his computer, they say they discovered evidence of what election experts say has become a rampant, largely ignored and troubling issue in Florida — the widespread abuse of absentee ballots.

Police say Henry’s computer was used to obtain dozens of absentee ballots prior to the city’s Aug. 24 elections, in which he was re-elected.

The Daytona Beach probe started when an elections supervisor noticed that as many as 90 absentee ballots had been requested from two e-mail addresses, and that they came from a single computer. (It is illegal in Florida for anyone other than a family member to help in requesting an absentee ballot.)

Volusia County Election Supervisor Ann McFall said she grew suspicious “because 40 requests arrived in one batch on the night of Aug. 6, and another 15 the next day.

“The absentee ballots had no phone numbers on them, and my first concern was to get them in compliance. I emailed the sender and when I got no response checked with the Daytona Beach clerk, because all the requests were from Zone 5 and he didn’t recognize the address. Then I handed it over to the sheriff’s office,” she said.

Police tracked the computer to the office of Henry, the city commissioner from Zone 5, who was running for re-election — and who easily defeated his two opponents with 65 per cent of the vote.

 

In New York, FNC’s Eric Shawn reports on another absentee ballot scheme implicating the ACORN-tied Working Family Party and a ring of Democrat officials:

 

There are various allegations of possible voter fraud across the country, against both parties, but nowhere does there seem to be a more unusual case than in Troy, New York.

A special prosecutor investigating allegations of voter fraud, Trey Smith, is collecting DNA from the majority of the city council…all Democrats. Five city councilmen, including the council president, as well as four other city and county public officials and political operatives, have been ordered to or have had their saliva swabbed for DNA samples to compare to absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications that were allegedly forged.

The investigation centers on what has been called “a massive voter fraud scheme,” that involved absentee ballots for the Working Families Party, in September 2009. It has been alleged that Democrats tried to steal the primary election for city council and county legislature, by forging absentee ballots and ballot applications to ensure that their candidates also won the Working Families Party primary line.

‘No comment,” is what Democratic Council member Gary Galuski told us, as well as several other public officials who are under investigation.

 

In Texas, citizen watchdogs have joined True the Vote to monitor and strike back against election fraud in Harris County:

 

Talk about denial! A group of liberal activists is making the media rounds, assuring reporters and editors that election fraud is a fairy tale. Nothing serious, they assert, nothing to see here. Too bad for them that citizens in Houston, energized by the Tea Party movement, have formed a group called True the Vote. Their hard work has demonstrated that, in some parts of the country at least, our election system is still infested with problems.

True the Vote is composed entirely of volunteers — hundreds of them. They have pored over election records in Harris County, Texas, looking for signs of fraud. And they have found plenty. Indeed, their initial research into only a very small portion of the voter registration records has led them to ask the U.S. Justice Department’s Voting Section to conduct a federal investigation.

In a letter asking for an official inquiry, True the Vote discusses potential widespread forgery in voter application forms. For instance, it seems from the applications that someone suspiciously signs the letter “J” with a quirky “3” inside the loop. The “3” shows up in multiple signatures for different voters with the names Jenard, Jamark, Jamarcus, and Jones.

True the Vote reports that at least four noncitizens have been registered to vote in Harris County. The group provided Justice with the actual voter registration forms where applicants marked “NO” to the question: “Are you a U.S. Citizen?” The group also provided the voter registration numbers of these confessed noncitizens. Yes, astonishingly, Harris County registered them to vote anyway. They are now on the rolls and able to participate in the upcoming midterm elections.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 was supposed to stop this from happening. But this federal legislation is only as good as the Justice Department’s willingness to enforce it. If Harris County is registering noncitizens, then it is violating numerous provisions of federal law, including those that prohibit the registration of foreigners to vote in federal elections.

True the Vote uncovered other types of fraud as well. The group forwarded to DOJ seven voter registration forms with applicant names different from the signature name. For example: Ta’mackayn Harrison’s application was signed by “Bra Kelly.” Jason King’s was signed by “Jemma Noel.” Yet Harris County inexplicably approved all of these applications. Jason King, aka Jemma Noel, is now on the voter rolls in Houston.

The citizens group also found multiple registrations for individual voters. For example, True the Vote provided the Justice Department government documents showing that at least four persons, including Jose Gomez and Victor Nickerson, had registered to vote multiple times successfully.

These problems were found by True the Vote in just a small sampling of the county’s voter registration list.

 

In Kentucky, there’s not much detail, but state and FBI officials are investigating voter fraud in Breathhitt County.

In Illinois, disgraceful officials have reportedly been caught lying about the status of military ballots while DOJ twiddles its thumbs.

In Ohio, it’s Cincinnati schools under fire for busing students to vote and handing them Democrat-only sample ballots:

 

Three van loads of Hughes High students were taken last week – during school hours – to vote and given sample ballots only for Democratic candidates and then taken for ice cream, a Monday lawsuit alleges.

The complaint was made by Thomas Brinkman Jr., a Republican candidate for Hamilton County auditor, and the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending & Taxes against Cincinnati Public Schools.

“They plan to bring four more high schools (to vote) this week,” Christopher Finney, COAST attorney, said Monday after filing the suit.

It seeks a temporary restraining order to prevent school officials from participating or helping students participate in partisan politics during school hours or with school property or employees involved.

 

These cases underscore the need for voters to put secretaries of state into office who will protect election integrity from radical left-wing groups. I’ve said before we need candidates like Kris Kobach, running for secretary of state in Kansas on an anti-fraud, anti-corruption, anti-ACORN platform, in every state in the nation.

In the meantime: Vigilance plus citizen media plus the willingness to be sued for blowing the whistle equals the best defense for voter fraud. We must all be voter fraud watchers now.

 

 

Posted in: Politics,Voter fraud

 

 

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Obama’s backyard chat at Seattle home in Wedgwood this morning Cont.

About 30 chairs have been set up in the backyard for the presidential chat. The backyard has a two-story tree house with a slide, and a pile of kids toys has been hidden under a tarp and pushed to the side to make room for a platform for television cameras.

Outside the house, more than two dozen people gathered. Among them was Shelby Adams, an eighth grader at Eckstein Middle School. Obama’s mother attended Eckstein when she and her family lived in Seattle in the 1950s.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Shelby, who admitted she was playing hooky to catch a glimpse of the president.

After the chat, Obama is next scheduled to appear at 11 a.m. at the University of Washington’s Edmundson Pavilion on Montlake Boulevard Northeast next to Husky Stadium.

People planning to attend were asked to RSVP to the Murray campaign.

King County Metro Transit has recommended that those attending the rally take buses because more than 15,000 people are expected.

Metro said more than 15 bus routes travel to or near the UW campus and the University District. To find a route, go to www.kingcounty.gov/tripplanner.

Freeway delays are expected when Obama leaves in the early afternoon after the UW event.

During the president’s visit, only one Metro bus route will see changes. Route 70 will bypass its regular stop at Sixth Avenue and Virginia Street in Seattle.

While some of the details of Obama’s visit to Seattle are being kept under wraps, the Seattle Department of Transportation is warning of possible traffic slowdowns.

City streets near his downtown Seattle hotel could be affected; however, the name of the hotel has not been announced.

During the presidential visit, the Federal Aviation Administration has established restricted airspace around Seattle.

The president’s plane touched down at Boeing Field at 9:22 p.m. on Wednesday.

He has returned to the state for the second time this election season to campaign U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.

The president was met by more than a dozen dignitaries, including Gov. Chris Gregoire, as he left the plane. After greeting them, he trotted over to chat and shake hands for a few minutes with a group of about 90 supporters behind a barrier.

Murray’s re-election bid has benefited from several appearances by big-name Democrats.

Former President Clinton stopped in Everett to support the incumbent on Monday. Vice President Joseph Biden held a Murray rally at the UW’s Tacoma campus two weeks ago. First lady Michelle Obama will visit next week.

Republican Dino Rossi is challenging Murray.

Immediately before arriving in Seattle, Obama was in Portland to campaign for gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber, and he will head to California to do the same for Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer after he leaves Seattle.

Sean Collins Walsh: 206-464-3195 or swalsh@seattletimes.com


READERS COMMENTS FROM THE SEATTLE TIMES!

President Obama returns to Seattle to chat economy, election

Crews ready The UW’s Hec Edmunson Pavilion for a Thursday appearance by President Barack Obama.

 

SEATTLE — Just two months after his last visit, President Obama is coming back to the Emerald City.

The Seattle stop is one of a four-day jaunt across the West that will have him talking about the economy and rally support for Democratic candidates in the November election.

The president was to arrive in Seattle late Wednesday evening and spend the night at a downtown hotel. On Thursday morning, he’s scheduled to hold a private meeting in a backyard of a Seattle resident with a female-only audience to talk about women and the economy.

After the chat is done, he’ll join Sen. Patty Murray at the University of Washington’s Hec Ed Pavilion at 11:30 a.m. for a public rally in support of Murray’s re-election bid.

The president has created quite a buzz on the UW campus, where some students are planning to camp out in front of Hec Ed in hopes they’ll get in. More than 18,000 people have RSVP’d online, but the venue’s capacity is 15,000. Doors will open at 9 a.m. and entry is first-come, first-serve. A representative from the Murray campaign said there will be an overflow space.

Some UW professors are canceling classes so their students can see the president, although the university is not sponsoring the event.

Obama’s has already campaigned on Murray’s behalf this year — he was here in Seattle on Aug. 17 — but returns as polls show the race is tight between Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi. Obama hopes to help keep Murray and a Democratic majority in the Senate, as it’s what he needs to help get his agenda through Congress in the final two years of his term.

Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama and Biden’s wife, Jill, are doing their part, too, in an all-hands-on-deck effort by a White House fully aware of the stakes for Obama should any Democrats fail to return to the Senate in January.

Biden campaigned Tuesday in Washington state for Murray and in San Francisco for California Sen. Barbara Boxer. He was scheduled to be in Reno, Nev., on Wednesday for Sen. Harry Reid. Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden plan joint appearances next week in California and Seattle for Boxer and Murray.

“We always knew that this was going to be a challenging year,” Obama senior adviser David Axelrod told reporters Tuesday. “So we’re out there and we’re scrapping and we’re fighting and I think we’re going to have some good success out there.”

Obama is scheduled to leave Seattle for San Francisco Thursday afternoon. The Department of Transportation is warning drivers to expect delays and temporary road closures around Seattle as the president moves about the city.

 

Temporary Flight Restrictions In Place — Again

As usual when the president is in town, the FAA has set up temporary flight restrictions around Seattle.

One who is now all too familiar with them is Lee Daily, who wandered into restricted space during Obama’s last visit on Aug. 17, triggering a military fighter jet response that sent sonic booms across a wide swath of Western Washington.

Daily says this time, the FAA called him for a friendly reminder about the restrictions.

“It was all friendly stuff,” Daily told KOMO NewsRadio. “Just in case you didn’t hear, there’s going to be some closures.”

Oh, he heard loud and clear and hopes no other pilots make his mistake.


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