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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Basic Health Plan
2:23 pm
Thu February 3, 2011

Proposal would cut illegal immigrants from Basic Health Plan

Undocumented immigrants would lose state medical coverage under a proposal to save the popular Basic Health insurance program. The get-tough measure is part of a budget-cutting plan unveiled by the State Senate. But it's at odds with a competing approach in the House.

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State Budget
11:04 am
Wed February 2, 2011

State cuts benefits to welfare families


In a single day, Washington cut more than 5,000 families from the state's welfare-to-work program. That's because a strict, five-year limit on benefits kicked in. It's a cost-cutting measure ordered by the Governor.

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Tax Exemptions
1:56 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

Lawmakers take stand on urban-to-rural tax flow


Democrats in the Washington House of Representatives have a "One Washington" mantra. But a couple of Western Washington lawmakers are testing that East-West unity. Their issue? The flow of state tax dollars that go over the mountains.

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Crime
6:11 am
Tue February 1, 2011

Questions linger over prison guard's killing


Governor Chris Gregoire has ordered flags to fly at half-staff in memory of a slain prison correctional officer. Gregoire has also initiated an outside review of the murder of Officer Jayme Biendl over the weekend.

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Crime
7:37 am
Mon January 31, 2011

Monroe prison guard murdered over weekend

Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl
Wash. DOC

His “worst nightmare.” That's how Washington’s Secretary of Corrections is describing the murder this weekend of a female correctional officer. Prison officials say 34-year-old Jayme Biendl was strangled to death.

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U.S. Military
5:06 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Possible deal for soldier accused in Afghan War crimes

Spc. Jeremy Morlock.
US Army

There's been a significant development in the case of five Washington-based soldiers accused of killing unarmed Afghan civilians last year. The Washington Post reports a plea deal has been struck with one of the key defendants. But an Army spokesman cautions nothing's been finalized. 

The Post, citing an anonymous source, says Specialist Jeremy Morlock has agreed to a deal that would spare him the possibility of life in prison.

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Law & Justice
7:48 am
Thu January 27, 2011

More learned about man who threatened Gregoire

A man who says he was upset over losing state benefits has been arrested and charged with making threats against Governor Chris Gregoire and her family. 51-year-old Robert Ray Locke was arraigned on one count of felony threat and pleaded not guilty.

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License Debate
10:50 am
Wed January 26, 2011

Gregoire supports citizenship checks for driver's licenses

Governor Chris Gregoire says she supports citizenship checks for driver's licenses. Washington is one of the last states in the nation that still issues driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Gregoire says ending that practice is a matter of national security:

"The job of being governor has changed dramatically since I came into office in 2005 and security has become one of the top priorities for every governor in this country."

There are several proposals in the legislature to require the Department of Licensing to confirm an applicant's "legal presence" in the country. Gregoire says if the legislature sends her a bill, she’ll sign it.

The governor's statement comes after a public radio report earlier this week on the issue. 

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State Budget
7:30 am
Tue January 25, 2011

Education vs. social services? House debates funding priorities

Students at Salmon Bay School in Seattle. The house voted to cut $42 million from programs to reduce class sizes in grades K-4.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

Lawmakers face stark choices when it comes to the budget. Those choices were on display Monday as the House voted on a cost-cutting bill. Democrats and Republicans split over what to cut next: education or social services.

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Basic Health Plan Budget
7:12 am
Wed January 19, 2011

House Democrats unveil plan to save basic health

These are uneasy times for the 56,000 Washingtonians on the Basic Health Plan. The state-subsidized health insurance program is tentatively slated to end March 1st. But House Democrats presented a Hail Mary proposal to possibly save it.

Washington's current two-year budget is still $600,000,000 out of whack. Finding hundreds of millions of dollars in savings between now and the end of the fiscal cycle in June is no easy task.

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State Data Center
8:02 am
Mon January 17, 2011

Rents cause sticker shock at new state data center

Steep rents at Washington’s new data center complex are causing some sticker shock in Olympia
Austin Jenkins N3

Construction of Washington's new $300 million data center complex is expected to wrap-up this summer. But as state agencies prepare to move in, the rent per square foot is causing some sticker shock.

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Politics
7:29 am
Fri January 14, 2011

Moxie Media case may bring crackdown on PAC's

State lawmakers are considering tighter restrictions on political action committees, or PAC's. The proposal stems from the case of a Seattle-based Democratic political firm now being sued by the Attorney General for campaign finance violations. 

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Lawsuits
10:58 am
Thu January 13, 2011

Taxpayers pay for cheesecake, cell phones and rock chips

Joe A. Williams’ confiscated strawberry-chocolate cheesecake.
Photo courtesy WA DOC

When the state of Washington gets sued, it’s the multi-million dollar payouts that make the headlines.

However, every year taxpayers are on the hook for thousands of dollars more in smaller property damage claims: Inmate TV sets, drowned cell phones, rock-chipped windows … even a cheesecake.

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Politics
9:30 am
Wed January 12, 2011

Despite ruling, political parties continue fight against top-two primary

Washington's major political parties are indicating they'll press on with their battle to overturn the state's top-two primary. This despite yet another court ruling Tuesday upholding the voter-approved primary system.

A federal district judge in Seattle ruled voters are not confused when they see the words "prefers Republican party" or "prefers Democratic party" next to a candidate’s name on the ballot. 

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State Government
6:16 am
Wed January 12, 2011

Gregoire urges lawmakers to bust status quo

State lawmakers must embrace change and "be bold." That was Governor Chris Gregoire's chief message Tuesday in her State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature. 

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