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Tom Steyer. That’s a name most Washingtonians have almost certainly never heard of. Yet Steyer – a California billionaire who made his money the same way former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney did, private equity investments – has taken a direct interest in influencing politics and issues in Washington state.

Steyer created the “NextGen Action Committee,” a recently formed political action committee based in Sacramento, Calif. Steyer has poured $3.8 million into NextGen so far, $150,000 of which found its way into the “She’s Changed PAC.” She’s Changed PAC is running an attack campaign aimed at stopping state Rep. Jan Angel (R) in her bid to unseat Democratic state Sen. Nathan Schlicher (D).

Angel came through the August primary with a double-digit lead despite the wave of cash Steyer threw against her. Nevertheless, the hardest fight may still be ahead. Rumors around Olympia indicate that Steyer may devote as much as $750,000 to trying to keep Angel from winning in November and thus stemming a slow but steady trend of Republican and conservative gains in the state Senate.

Pickups in 2008 and 2010 – combined with the presence of two fiscally conservative and reform-minded Democratic state senators – made this year’s game-changing Majority Coalition Caucus possible.

Having one more Republican vote in the state Senate opens political possibilities on budget, taxes, and policy that the GOP has not had available to it for more than half a decade.

So what is Steyer’s endgame? Everett Herald columnist Jerry Cornfield wrote in August about NextGen’s focused environmental agenda, one that might not be so beneficial for Washington state’s desire to revive its flagging reputation as a business-friendly state.

From the Everett Herald:

“…[Next Generation] describes its mission as promoting solutions to “two of the biggest challenges confronting the next generation of Americans: The risk of dangerous climate change, and the threat of diminished prospects for children and families.”

“Next Generation takes lessons learned from California, America’s largest, most populous state, and helps spread innovative ideas that can be enacted through public policy, private enterprise, families, and individual,” according to its site.

Cornfield also quoted from a press release issued after a Seattle global warming event at which Steyer shared time with Gov. Jay Inslee.

“What are we on the West Coast going to do about the bigger picture of climate change?” Steyer asked during his keynote address. “I think the solution is pretty straightforward: the West Coast needs to lead. And we will do so by exploiting every opportunity in the proposition process, the electoral process and the legislative process. It’s a big task.”

 

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Washington needs to embrace real transportation reforms before considering new revenue

Representative Bruce Chandler (R-15)

Representative Bruce Chandler (R-15)

If you traveled for the Labor Day holiday you may have given a passing thought to our transportation system.  Perhaps you were on some roads that need paving, or maybe you hit extra congestion that slowed you down.  Or maybe you were in the Puget Sound visiting family and you took a ferry to get to your destination.

Even if you didn’t travel far, there has been a lot of news about transportation projects and problems lately that would be hard to avoid: the proposed I-5 bridge replacement to Oregon, the collapse of the bridge over the Skagit River and discussion about raising gas taxes to pay for needed projects and maintenance.

I know full well that there are great needs for further investment in our infrastructure.  Our current system is not sustainable for future generations without more resources.  However, we all know that the Department of Transportation has to get more of their ducks in a row before they should be given more ducks.

Over the years there have been many projects that have gone over budget or have encountered major problems that should have been avoided.

Just recently we heard from WSDOT that they have spent millions of dollars trying to fix mistakes made by the Department on the 520 bridge project.  We can expect that millions more will be spent to fix the problems with the bridge pontoons.  All of this will likely delay completion of the bridge by a year or more from what was originally planned.

Then there were the listing ferries in the Puget Sound: a few newly built, expensive ferries that were discovered to uncannily lean in the water.

And we are already seeing delays in the drilling of the new tunnel route for Highway 99 in Seattle.  Machine problems and a labor dispute have resulted in only 24 feet of drilling in a month when they were expecting 6 feet of drilling per day.

These are just a few examples of recent transportation problems we have seen around the state.  One way to help change the way we do transportation projects is to provide more oversight from both government and the public over what is happening with your transportation dollars.  Thankfully, two transportation leaders in the State Senate, Republican Curtis King from Yakima and Democrat Tracey Eide from Federal Way, will be holding forums around the state to share information with you and take your input as well.

This is just a small step in the process of changing the way we spend taxpayer money, though an important one.  I look forward to working with other legislators in the coming months on transportation reforms that the people of Washington deserve so that we can have a transportation system we can be proud to leave for our kids.

Rep. Bruce Chandler represents the 15th District.  He has served in the House of Representatives since 1999.

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JanAngelJan Angel, third-term Republican state representative and challenger in the high visibility 26th legislative district state Senate special election, continues to hold a commanding nine-point lead over Democratic incumbent state Sen. Nathan Schlicher on the second day of primary election results.

After Wednesday’s counting, Angel extended her initial Election Night lead to 54.71% to 45.29% over Schlicher.

“I couldn’t be more encouraged by the outcome of this primary election,” Angel said in a statement from the campaign.

“We have worked hard to get our message out about rebuilding our economy, strengthening schools, limiting taxes and meaningful government reforms,” Angel continued. “We aren’t done yet, there is still a November General election and tomorrow we go back to work.”

In contrast, Schlicher’s reaction to Tuesday’s results posted on his campaign Facebook page was hollow-sounding political spin.

“We are excited to see the gap closing. Our opponent won the district by 20 points less than a year ago, yet we have already closed half the distance in a month of the campaign despite a half million dollars worth of false attacks from their side. With three months to go, we have the momentum and are excited to see the final results in the general!” Schlicher said.

Failure is success. Losing is winning. Defeat is victory. Big Brother, eat your heart out.

That pabulum directed primarily at Schlicher’s morale-challenged volunteers is unlikely to pacify his campaign’s financial benefactors and Democratic leaders. If Republicans pick up the 26th district state Senate seat, the resulting one-vote gain for the reform-minded Senate Majority Coalition Caucus would be numerically small but politically huge.

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Rep. Norma Smith, R-10

Rep. Norma Smith, R-10

It’s the Sunday paper, and you’re supposed to be relaxing. So, why read a column about an issue that makes people’s eyes glaze over? Because it matters. What is it? Regulatory reform, its relationship to job creation, the critical need to understand the role it can play in accelerating our economic recovery, and what we can do about it.

Think about the diversity of Washington state’s economy and how blessed we are to have a broad spectrum of robust industry sectors, including agriculture, aerospace, high-tech and biosciences, marine trades, health care, energy, tourism and natural resource industries.

Now consider our state’s economy as a three-legged stool: research and development, service and production. All are dependent upon one another to create vibrancy and synergy critical to economic growth.

Yet, in Washington, our regulatory business climate threatens growth and is a key competitive disadvantage as we compete to promote job creation across all sectors. Economists tell us certainty is essential to recovery. The uncertainty created by an adversarial and unpredictable regulatory climate is palpable. No bureaucrat can measure the “weariness factor” a small-business owner experiences when significant sums of money and time have been spent trying to make multiple agencies happy on a straightforward issue, only to face indecision or a default “no.”

This has not gone unnoticed. We’ve received national attention because of our poor ratings. In addition, our own state auditor published findings, as did our Washington Economic Development Commission (WEDC), noting our “overly burdensome” climate, and that it must improve as one of five key strategies for long-term success.

This is essential in light of the disturbing headlines of economic decline in other regions of the country. Why? Because in the crosshairs of costly, duplicative and confusing regulations and rules is the production sector of our economy — manufacturing, growing, building, processing, and creating the products and commodities that are essential for our economic viability and recovery.

Production jobs provide many of the best opportunities for stable, family-wage jobs that offer a hope and future for Washington families — especially those struggling to make ends meet and who long for a better life for themselves and their children. More than 60 percent of working Washingtonians do not have a four-year college degree. With training opportunities, the production sector of our economy provides excellent opportunities for wages, benefits and advancement. And for all of us, a vibrant economy is dependent on production.

In Olympia this year, something significant took place. I finally saw an encouraging bit of “sea change” and an improved momentum regarding this issue. The state auditor’s recommendations report from 2012 and the WEDC strategies paved the way.

I began working in late fall to draft four pieces of legislation based on their findings. Meetings with the impacted agencies were insightful, and involving them was critical to success. Our new governor spoke about the need to improve our business climate and lent weight. Colleagues from both sides of the aisle co-sponsored and supported the proposed legislation. I partnered with Sen. Sharon Brown from the 8th District, who introduced bills in the Senate and worked tirelessly as an advocate — increasing the opportunity for their passage. All four bills (House Bill 1591/Senate Bill 5679), (HB1818/SB5765), (HB1757/SB5718) and (HB1403/SB5680) were signed into law.

Regulatory reform is about doing the job of government in a smarter way that costs taxpayers less, so that hard-earned dollars can be used for reinvestment and job creation. It allows for the unleashing of creativity and inspiring confidence in the American Dream.

Some see the issue as “code language” for lowering our standards for public health, safety or environmental protection. That is simply not true. Washington state is an international leader in demonstrating that a sustainable, robust production sector can be at home in an extraordinarily beautiful environment. While we will always be improving, we will continue to lead by example.

The four bills I mentioned will not fix our state’s massive “overly-burdensome regulatory system.” Our job creators have been slogging through the matrix for decades, fighting for fairness, clarity and predictability. But the legislation does take significant steps in the right direction — sending a clear message that, with courage and diligence, we can make improvements to our business climate, celebrate the job creators, and continue to build a stronger economy that offers hope and opportunity for every hard-working Washingtonian.

Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, serves as the ranking Republican on the House Technology and Economic Development Committee. She also serves on the House Capital Budget, Government Accountability and Oversight and Higher Education Committees.

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In a very abrupt turn of events, the Washington State Republican Party finds itself suddenly without a chief after a Monday announcement that Chairman Kirby Wilbur is resigning from the post, effective immediately.

From NW Daily Marker:

Kirby Wilbur is stepping down as head of the Washington State Republican Party to accept a five-year position with the Young America’s Foundation in Washington, D.C., according to a statement released from state party headquarters in Bellevue, Wash.

The party’s release indicated Wilbur’s resignation is effective today.

The news comes only a few weeks before the WSRP state committee is scheduled to meet in Spokane on official business at which time the party could elect Wilbur’s replacement.

 

 

 

 

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