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Posts published in “Day: January 14, 2014”

Divisions and votes


Josef Stalin was famously quoted as saying with snorting dismissiveness, in a discussion of European power politics: "The Pope? How many divisions has he got?"

It was the response of an authoritarian mind interested not in right or wrong, better or worse, or even the long term - only in immediate raw capabilities.

This is not - certainly! - a comparison of personalities, but the quote by state Senator Rodney Tom widely circulated today brought that old Stalin line to mind. Tom was asked about the new Washington Supreme Court report concluding that the legislature had seriously underfunded public schools in the state, and strenuously ... advised ... the legislature to take action on it. It was a report that quite a few people seem to have taken seriously.

Tom's attitude was a little different. Asked about the court's take on education funding, he said, "Let them have at it."

In other words, how many votes (as opposed to army divisions) in the legislative chambers has the court got?

Tom, though the majority leader of the Senate, is in effect just the co-leader, along with the head of the Republican caucus; but he in fact may be speaking for the governing caucus in the Senate. If so, he's calling for the legislature to simply defy the state's Supreme Court. (The third branch, led by Governor Jay Inslee, would be differently inclined.)

It may be able to do that for a while. But eventually, a price will be paid. Watch how the session, and the election following, play out.

Congress and the budget of meh

trahant MARK


The adjective of the day is “modest.” That’s the standard phrase to describe the $1.012 trillion spending bill for a federal fiscal year that has less than nine months left. The bill gives modest relief from the sequester. There are tiny (I can’t bring myself to say “modest” even in jest) increases in some federal programs, including the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and it puts off the fight over the size and nature of government until another day.

This is the Budget of Meh. It better reflects a broken governance structure than it does true spending priorities. Neither the right, those who want to shrink government, nor those of us who want to the government to invest in key program areas can claim victory. Meh.

This budget reflects a continuing trend of austerity. The federal government is shrinking. Sort of. And austerity rules.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, took credit for this idea in his news release about the compromise spending plan. “The Omnibus will fulfill the basic duty of Congress; it provides funding for every aspect of the federal government, from our national defense, to our transportation systems, to the education of our kids,” Rogers said. “The bill reflects careful decisions to realign the nation’s funding priorities and target precious tax dollars to important programs where they are needed the most. At the same time, the legislation will continue the downward trend in federal spending to put our nation on a sustainable fiscal path.”

But Rogers’ line of thinking is misleading. This huge, 1,500-plus page spending bill, only covers federal dollars that are appropriated, about one-third of the budget. This is the budget that’s shrinking, while two-thirds of the budget continues untouched on an automatic pilot, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance and, I hope, money that is pumped into the Indian health system through the Affordable Care Act.

So for Indian Country the appropriations process is broken beyond repair; business as usual is no more. The federal programs that have served Indian Country well are essentially continuing to shrink. The Omnibus budget, for example, shows an increase of $18 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Eighteen million! Wow. In percentage terms that’s less than one percent. The IHS increase is under 2 percent. (more…)

What made the front page


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Kerry gives two Idaho potatoes to Russian minister (Boise Statesman)
Hiring on wolf hunter mangering conservationists (Boise Statesman)
Spokespeare Festival prepares for property law ruling (Boise Statesman)
Banks won't handle legal pot money (Boise Statesman)
H&W: Public assistance use rises in Idaho (Lewiston Tribune)
Lapwai school may review 'Braves" team name (Lewiston Tribune)
Pullman has 11 applicants for marijuana shops (Moscow News)
Upgrading downtown Moscow crosswalks (Moscow News)
Local levies in Caldwell and Middleton (Nampa Press Tribune)
New Nampa Council member (Nampa Press Tribune)
Last year was good for Canyon real estate (Nampa Press-Tribune)
Gunrights advocates hold event at Statehouse (Pocatello Journal. Sandpoint Bee)
Sandpoint will choose new mayor (Sandpoint Bee)
Twin Falls on alternate Snake River jumper (TF Times News)
Improvements needed in managing water (TF Times News)

Mass apartment evictions land in court (Corvallis Gazette Times)
OSU center named for president's wife (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Former Lane commissioner sued for adminstrator report (Eugene Register Guard)
Eugene council may divest investments in energy (Eugene Register Guard)
End of week deadline for Klamath water deal (KF Herald & News)
KF school given to YMCA (KF Herald & News)
California mall buyer adds to KF holdings (KF Herald & News)
Still thin snow at ski area (Ashland Tidings)
No increase in Applegate Lake speed (Medford Tribune)
Albertsons at Pendleton closing (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Oil shipping trains roll through (Pendleton East Oregonian)
CRC discussion ahead (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Expension at Good Shepherd Hermiston hospital (Pendleton East Orgonian)
Mohamud's attorney call for FISA reports (Portland Oregonian)
Oregon at 28 enrolling for private health insurance (Portland Oregonian)
Banking tough for pot dealers (Portland Oregonian)
Cleaning railroad tunnels (Salem Statesman Journal)

Ski areas get more snow (Everett Herald)
Legislature begins, okays DREAM (Tacoma News Tribune, Spokane Spokesman, Everett Herald, Vancouver Columbian, Kennewick Herald, Yakima Herald Republic, Longview News)
Health enrollment figures released (Kennewick Herald)
Yakama Tribe seeks pot ban in large region (Longview News)
Unity plan for Port Angeles Business groups (Port Angeles News)
Boeing sales compared to Airbus (Seattle Times)
Assistant Seattle police chief retires (Seattle Times)
Rick Larsen loses Machinists endorsement (Seattle Times)
Planning for Tacoma Amtrak station (Tacoma News Tribune)
CRC gets another look (Vancouver Columbian)
Albertsons closes more stores (Tacoma News Tribune)
Yakima auditor won't run again (Yakima Herald Republic)