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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Gubernatorial Debate
10:10 am
Wed October 3, 2012

Washington’s 'Blue Tide' creates challenge for McKenna

Gubernatorial candidates, Jay Inslee (left) and Rob McKenna met last night in Yakima for their third debate. Two more are scheduled before election day.

As the presidential candidates prepare for tonight's debate, polls show President Obama averages a 15-point advantage in Washington over Republican rival Mitt Romney. Washington’s open race for governor is much closer.

The two candidates in that contest met Tuesday night in Yakima for a fiery third debate. But the polls highlight a reality for Republican Rob McKenna: he’ll have to woo a good number of Obama voters if he’s to become Washington’s first GOP governor in nearly 30 years.

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Same-sex marriage
10:28 am
Wed June 6, 2012

Washington's same-sex marriage law on hold; Will it be major issue in elections?

Marriage equality supporters Teri McClain, left, and Mary Beth Brotski stand with signs supporting President Barack Obama outside a fundraising event for the president on May 10 in Seattle. Will this social issue dominate the elections?
The Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington's gay marriage law is now on hold.

Preserve Marriage Washington submitted more than 200,000 signatures Wednesday, blocking the law from taking effect on Thursday.

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Other News
8:10 am
Thu May 17, 2012

Washington's unemployment rate continues slow drop

Washington's unemployment rate dipped to 8.1 percent in April. Image via U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington’s jobless rate continues to inch downward. The April numbers out Wednesday put unemployment at 8.1 percent . That’s down from 8.3 percent in March. Most of April’s job growth was in manufacturing.

State economist Dave Wallace says so far 2012 is proving to be a recovery year in Washington.

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Politics
1:33 am
Wed May 16, 2012

Documents show agency insiders questioned Great Wolf Lodge tax exemption

"Great Wolf Lodge in southwest Washington draws families from across the region to its indoor water park."
Austin Jenkins KPLU

GRAND MOUND, Wash. - Great Wolf Resorts is a Wisconsin-based chain of indoor water parks and hotels. Four years ago, the company expanded what it calls its “paw print” to the Northwest.

It opened its first west coast property at Grand Mound, Washington south of Olympia. The state of Washington declared the resort tax exempt because Great Wolf partnered with the Chehalis Indian Tribe.

Now, Correspondent Austin Jenkins has obtained internal state documents that question that tax-free status – potentially worth tens of millions of dollars.

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Politics
8:51 am
Tue May 15, 2012

Great Wolf Lodge tax exemption stands despite internal doubts, court ruling

Families play in the wave pool at Great Wolf Lodge south Of Olympia.

Since the 1970s, U.S. policy toward American Indian tribes has been to encourage economic independence. Tribal casinos are probably the most visible symbol of that policy.

These days, tribes are diversifying into other businesses. In 2005, the Chehalis Indian tribe in southwest Washington partnered with a Wisconsin-based water park chain to build a destination resort. The state of Washington, in turn, granted the project tax exempt status. But now, internal state documents question whether Great Wolf Lodge really is a tribal entity and eligible for favorable tax treatment.

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Gay Rights
9:38 am
Mon May 14, 2012

Governor Gregoire emerging as unlikely gay rights activist

Governor Christine Gregoire raises her arms as legislators and supporters cheer behind her after she signed into law a measure that legalizes same-sex marriage Feb. 13, 2012, in Olympia.
AP

OLYMPIA - Washington Governor Chris Gregoire is emerging as an unlikely gay rights activist - both at home and on the national stage. Her role in helping pass a same-sex marriage law this year has made Gregoire a sought-after spokesperson for the movement.

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Same-sex marriage
4:10 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Same-sex marriage foes look for boost from Obama stance

President Barack Obama is seen on a monitor in the White House briefing room in Washington, Wednesday, May 9, 2012. President Barack Obama told an ABC interviewer that he supports gay marriage.
The Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash – Northwest gay rights supporters are cheering President Obama’s comments that he thinks same sex couples should be able to marry. But organizers of a petition drive to repeal Washington’s new marriage equality law hope to capitalize on the President’s new stance.

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Budget woes
9:27 am
Wed May 2, 2012

Lawsuit likely over roll-your-own smokes tax in Washington

Screen grab from Tobacco Joe's Roll Your Own website.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The burgeoning roll-your-own cigarette industry in Washington is preparing to do legal battle against the state. Governor Chris Gregoire is expected to sign into law today a new tax on do-it-yourself smokes. That will likely trigger a lawsuit.

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Washington state legislature
8:06 am
Wed April 11, 2012

Wash. Legislature passes budget proposal, adjourns

State employee and local union president Thornton Alberg watches House floor action on the 30th day of the special session.
Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Governor Gregoire played the role of negotiator-in-chief. Her shuttle diplomacy finally brought the Washington House and Senate to a bipartisan go-home deal. Lawmakers needed some extra time on the clock. But they were able to pass a budget that closes a half-billion dollar budget shortfall.

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Washington State Legislature
8:26 am
Fri April 6, 2012

One month later, Democrats' defection still raw in Wash.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The three Washington Senate Democrats who broke from their caucus last month to vote with Republicans face renewed criticism - from their fellow Democrats. At issue is whether to link a series of government reforms to a plan to rebalance the state budget.

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Election 2012
12:45 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

Following the cash in Washington elections is tough

Democratic contributor Martha Knox believes caps on individual contributions in Washington are too low, especially given the cost of running a statewide campaign.
Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – We’re hearing a lot these days about Super PACS and who’s funding them. At the state level, Washington gets high marks for requiring full disclosure of who’s bankrolling political campaigns. Even so, a new public radio study highlights weaknesses in Washington – especially when it comes to transparency.

It’s not always so easy to follow the money.

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War in Afghanistan
10:33 pm
Sun March 11, 2012

Shock, concern are reactions at Joint Base Lewis-McChord over Afghanistan killings

Private First Class Jeremy Lozano is getting ready for his first deployment to Afghanistan. He anticipates the massacre of innocent civilians will make an already tough deployment tougher. “That’s now more problems that we have to worry about.”
Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

LAKEWOOD, Wash. – The U-S soldier who allegedly massacred at least 16 Afghan civilians is reported to be from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Soldiers assigned to the base express shock at the violence and concern about retaliation.

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Law
9:42 am
Mon February 27, 2012

Democratic lawmakers seek to overturn supermajority for taxes

Washington voters consistently send Democratic majorities to the statehouse. But four times over the past 20 years they’ve also voted to require a supermajority of the legislature to raise taxes. Most recently, in 2010. Now a group of Democratic lawmakers and their allies are challenging the constitutionality of that two-thirds rule.

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Washington State Legislature
3:36 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

Washington House Dems roll out budget; no general tax increase

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Majority Democrats in the Washington state House have unveiled a plan to rebalance the state’s budget. The spending blueprint released Tuesday does not call for a general tax increase. But it would delay a massive payment to public schools. It also relies on savings from reduced demand for state services.

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Washington State Legislature
9:27 am
Fri February 17, 2012

Revenue forecast up as tax idea loses steam

Governor Chris Gregoire is backing off her proposal for a half-penny sales tax increase. The shift comes after Thursday’s positive revenue forecast. It shows a nearly $100 million bump in state revenues.

Just a few days ago, Governor Gregoire was standing in the Senate wings surrounded by reporters. And she reiterated her support for a temporary sales tax increase to offset budget cuts.

“We’re in tough times," Gregoire said. "We need a little help from the public to get us through for the next three years until we get our feet on the ground again.”

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