Austin Jenkins

Olympia Correspondent

Austin Jenkins, KPLU’s and N3’s Olympia Reporter, has been covering the Washington State Legislature and regional public policy issues since 2004. Prior to becoming a public radio reporter, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise – to name just a few of his stops. Austin grew up in Seattle and is a graduate of Connecticut College. Austin’s memorable moment in public radio: “There are too many to pick just one: Covering Washington’s contested 2004 gubernatorial election, flying in an Army Reserve Chinook helicopter to the top of Mt. Rainier, spending 24-hours on a tug boat on the Snake River, the list goes on.”  You can also track all the current events at Washinton's capitol on Austin's blog, The Washington Ledge.

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cost of informaton
2:46 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

State's Advisory Tax Vote Guides Could Cost $240K

FILE - A voter walks toward an empty bank of voting stations at a polling place Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2008.
Elaine Thompson Associated Press

Washington’s fall voters’ guide may be 20 pages longer and cost nearly a quarter-million dollars more to publish.

That’s because of a voter-approved requirement that all tax hikes appear on the ballot for an advisory vote. This year there will be five of these non-binding ballot measures.

Katie Blinn with Washington’s secretary of state’s office says each advisory vote requires four pages in the voters’ pamphlet.

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data center complex
4:08 pm
Mon July 15, 2013

State Acknowledges Washington Data Center Was Overbuilt

This image shows one of the “built out” data halls in Washington’s new data center.
Consolidated Technology Services

Critics of Washington’s new $300 million data center complex have been saying for years that it was overbuilt. Now, the state acknowledges as much.

In a new report, Washington’s Chief Information Officer concludes two of the four data halls will not be needed.

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Corporate tax break
9:28 am
Mon July 15, 2013

Tax Break for Russell Investments Riles House Finance Chair

Russell Investment Center
tiff_Seattle Flickr

It was the legislative equivalent of a buzzer beater.

Just as the Washington Legislature was about to adjourn last month, the House and Senate quickly passed a series of tax breaks mostly for businesses. They included exemptions for dance clubs, mint growers, dairy products and digital data used by international investment firms. That last one will largely benefit a single global firm—Seattle-based Russell Investments.

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health benefit exchanges
5:45 am
Wed July 10, 2013

Northwest health exchanges are big money ventures

Nearly a half-billion dollars is how much the federal government has awarded Washington, Oregon and Idaho to create health benefit exchanges. These are the new web portals to purchase insurance under the Affordable Care Act. It’s a costly undertaking that involves six-figure salaries, hefty IT contracts, and high-end advertising campaigns.

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balancing interests
1:17 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

In citizen Legislature, conflict of interest lines blurred

Morgan Garvin Flickr

Washington lawmakers have departed the Capitol and are getting back to their normal lives. For most of them, that means going back to their regular jobs as farmers, lawyers, nurses, business owners. It’s the essence of a citizen Legislature. But this dual existence—one job as a lawmaker and another job back home—can invite conflicts of interest.

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marijuana regulation
12:55 pm
Fri July 5, 2013

Pot consultant: Legal pot will work only if police target black market

Elaine Thompson Associated Press

The stated goal of Washington’s new marijuana law is to stop treating adult pot use as a crime. But Washington’s pot consultant says this experiment in legalization will only work if the police aggressively target the black market. And he’s concerned that won’t happen.

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regulating marijuana
4:09 pm
Wed July 3, 2013

Revised pot rules ditch state logo, allow outdoor grows

Washington’s official pot logo is out. Outdoor marijuana grows are in. Those are just two of the changes to the proposed rules for the state’s new recreational marijuana market. The Liquor Control Board voted Wednesday to approve the revised regulations.

The biggest change in the rules comes as no surprise. The state will now allow outdoor marijuana grows as long as they’re fenced in. Liquor Board member Chris Marr explained why he and his colleagues had a change of heart about outdoor cultivation.

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Columbia River Crossing
4:16 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

Joint Wash.-Ore. Columbia River Crossing office to close

FILE - In this Aug. 4, 2011, file photo, made in Portland, Ore., the Interstate 5 bridge spans the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington.
Don Ryan, File Associated Press

Gov. Jay Inslee called it “a dang shame.” Plans for a new bridge over the Columbia River are shelved, if not dead, after the state Legislature adjourned over the weekend without funding the construction phase of the project.

You might call the Columbia River Crossing “the bridge to the archives.” That’s where the blueprints will go now that the Washington Senate said “no” to a gas tax increase. That nixes $450 million for the new bridge over the mighty Columbia between Vancouver and Portland.

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governor's report card
12:02 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

Gov. Inslee chalks up wins, losses in first session

Rachel La Corte Associated Press

Gov. Jay Inslee can claim some significant legislative wins and several losses now that the Legislature has finally adjourned.

The Democrat’s first dance with lawmakers was made more difficult when Republicans and two breakaway Democrats took control of the state Senate.

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transportation package
2:23 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

On second try, state House passes gas tax measure

Rachel La Corte Associated Press

The Washington House has approved a $10 billion transportation package that includes a 10.5 cent gas tax increase over two years. The vote Thursday followed a failed effort Wednesday to approve the same measure. 

It was a rare do-over vote on the House floor. And State Representative Marko Liias, a Democrat, acknowledged as much.

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state budget
11:37 am
Thu June 27, 2013

Gov't shutdown averted: Gov. announces budget deal

<> Flickr

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says a government shutdown on Monday has been averted. The Democrat announced a budget deal Thursday that comes just in the nick of time. Monday is the start of a new fiscal year and without a signed budget much of state government would have been shuttered.

“The deal reached today makes it clear that state government will continue to operate. We will be notifying all state employees to be at work on Monday, July 1. Government operations will not be interrupted," the governor said. 

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proposed gas tax hike
5:00 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Gas tax package falls short in state House

<> Flickr

A proposal to raise Washington’s gas tax by 10.5 cents to fund transportation projects has failed in the state House. Supporters on Wednesday came up one vote short. But they vow to try again.

The transportation revenue package would raise $10 billion for maintenance and preservation of existing roads and to fund new projects. The proposal calls for a 6 cent gas tax increase this summer followed by another 4.5 cent increase next July. On the House floor, Republican Ed Orcutt blasted the proposal as an unaffordable tax hike.

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perks of elected office
3:34 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Trip to Turkey, Azerbaijan marks state senator's foreign travel

Washington state Senator Pam Roach appears on Azerbaijani television during a trip in May to strengthen relations between the U.S. and Azerbaijan.
Sen. Pam Roach

It can be one of the perks of elected office: free trips to foreign lands. Recently, several Washington state lawmakers were invited on a 10-day tour of Turkey and Azerbaijan. This particular overseas excursion has raised questions in the Capitol about when a foreign trip is legitimate legislative business and when it’s a junket.

The invitations were hand delivered to legislative offices earlier this spring. The cover letter began: “We want to invite you to Turkey and the U.S.-Azerbaijan Convention.”

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government shutdown
4:44 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

State budget talks heat up, gov't shutdown details emerge

From left to right, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's Chief of Staff Mary Alice Heuschel, Julie Murray from the Office of Financial Management, and Inslee's general counsel, Nicholas Brown, listen to a question from the media about contingency plans for a pote
Rachel La Corte Associated Press

The push is on to reach a final budget deal in Olympia. Top legislative leaders met Thursday in an attempt to bridge their final differences.

Meanwhile, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of what a government shutdown on July 1 would look like if no agreement is reached.

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outdoor marijuana grows
4:13 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

Liquor Control Board staff: Allow outdoor marijuana grows

Licensed outdoor marijuana grows may be allowed in Washington after all.

Staff at the state’s Liquor Control Board said Wednesday they’ve been persuaded by potential growers to consider alternatives to energy-intensive indoor pot production.

Meanwhile, medical marijuana patients rallied at the state Capitol in opposition possible new restrictions on them.

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