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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Legislative Session
9:31 am
Fri March 14, 2014

Washington Legislature Adjourns Without Action On Medical Marijuana, Gas Tax

Legislative staff and others line up outside of the House chamber in advance of the Legislature adjourning its 60-day session, on Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Olympia, Wash.
Rachel La Corte AP Photo

The Washington Legislature adjourned its 60-day session just before midnight Thursday night.

In the final hours, lawmakers passed a bipartisan update to the state’s two-year budget. They also sent the governor a bill to give military veterans in-state tuition to attend college, and reauthorized a fee that pays for homeless housing.

But it’s what lawmakers did not do this Legislative session that may stand out most for voters.

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Budget Negotiations
12:31 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Budget Deal Struck In Washington Legislature

Austin Jenkins

Washington public schools will get an additional nearly $60 million, but teachers will not get a cost of living raise this year. That’s the upshot of a budget deal that’s being announced at the Capitol in Olympia.

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Defense Fund
5:00 am
Thu March 13, 2014

Facing Ethics Charge, Washington Lt. Gov Wants Legal Defense Fund

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen bangs the gavel as he conducts business in the Senate chamber on the first day of the 2014 session of the Washington state Legislature, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

In the 1990s, an embattled President Bill Clinton created a legal defense fund. Now Washington Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen wants all state elected officials to have that option.

The Democrat, the state’s four-term lieutenant governor, is motivated by his own ethics troubles. 

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Lobbyists & Legislators
5:31 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Lobbyist-Paid Meals Legislation Appears To Die In Washington Statehouse

File image
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

It looks like Washington lawmakers may adjourn their 60-day legislative session without addressing the issue of lobbyist-paid entertainment. Free meals for lawmakers became an issue last year after we reported on several state senators who regularly allowed lobbyists to pick up the tab.

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Legislative Session
3:23 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

End In Sight For Washington Legislature, Still Plenty Of Work To Do

A few of the first daffodils of the season begin to bloom in view of the Capitol building Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Olympia, Wash.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Washington lawmakers are in the home stretch — or at least they hope they are.

The current 60-day session is supposed to adjourn this coming Thursday. But the House and Senate still have to agree on an update to the two-year budget. And that’s not the only major issue that remains unresolved.

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Education
5:24 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Inslee, Teachers' Union Clash Over Evaluation Measure

File photo. Washington Governor Jay Inslee has made the case for a controversial teacher evaluation bill.
biologycorner Flickr

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 3:12 pm

They supported his campaign, but now some unionized teachers in Washington have stern words for Governor Jay Inslee.

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Economy
1:33 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Washington Recoups Great Recession Job Losses, With Caveat

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Mary Altaffer AP Photo

It took four years, but Washington has now recovered more jobs than it lost during the Great Recession. But Wednesday’s announcement comes with a caveat.

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Consumer Protection
3:29 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Washington Insurance Commissioner: Premera ‘Guts’ Consumer Protection Bill

FILE - Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is interviewed in his office Friday, Jan. 11, 2008, at the Capitol in Olympia.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

Washington’s Insurance Commissioner wants to notify consumers if their insurance company is on the verge of bankruptcy. But Democrat Mike Kreidler says lobbying by health insurance giant Premera Blue Cross has “gutted” his consumer protection measure in the Washington Legislature.

After the collapse of AIG in 2008, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners developed something called the Holding Company Act. It basically gives state regulators additional oversight of insurance carriers that are held by a parent company.

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Gas Tax
4:11 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

‘Heavy Lift’ Gas Tax Vote In Washington Legislature Breeds Partisan Mistrust

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AP Photo

The debate over a gas tax hike has revved up again in the state Legislature. A key Senate Republican formally introduced legislation Monday to raise the gas tax by 11.5 cents to fund road projects. But Democrats are reacting warily.

The latest plan Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, still spends about $12 billion to maintain and preserve existing roads, build and complete new projects and pay for other transportation priorities. But it includes some concessions to Democrats, including more money for transit.

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Climate Change
12:16 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Inslee Prepares To Make Moral Case For Carbon Reduction

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AP Photo

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is preparing to take action on an issue that could secure his legacy, or complicate his re-election chances.

He wants to cap carbon, the biggest culprit in greenhouse gas emissions in Washington. It’s a controversial and potentially costly idea. But the Democrat believes it’s an economic and even moral imperative in the long term.

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Minimum Wage
11:50 am
Sat March 1, 2014

Washington House Speaker: Minimum Wage Hike Wasn’t Ready For Vote

FILE - House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, speaks to the House on the first day of the 2014 session of the Washington state Legislature, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

Washington Speaker of the House Frank Chopp supports a minimum wage hike. But he says the issue wasn’t ready for a vote on the House floor this year. The Democrat made his comments Friday in a rare meeting with the Capitol press corps.

“I think it was important to start the conversation and have a good discussion, and figure out where there’s consensus over moving forward. Because if you’re working, you shouldn’t be poor,” Chopp said.

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Tax Breaks
3:28 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Washington Legislature On Collision Course Over Tax Breaks

FILE - From left, Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, and Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, talk about the supplemental budget proposal by the House Democrats, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

The final two weeks of the Washington legislative session may come down to a battle over tax breaks.

Democrats want to eliminate a series of tax exemptions to fund teacher cost-of-living raises and other education priorities. Republicans propose just the opposite; they want to renew several tax incentives with the goal of creating or preserving jobs.

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Education Funding
4:04 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Washington Senate Democrats Target Tax Exemptions To Fund Schools

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AP Photo

Minority Democrats in the Washington Senate want to tax oil refineries, bottled water, prescription drug resellers and out-of-state shoppers. The proposal released Tuesday could generate $100 million per year for public schools.

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Tax Breaks
9:43 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Washington Senate Includes Nearly Two Dozen Tax Breaks In Budget Plan

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AP Photo

The Washington Senate is proposing the creation or extension of nearly two dozen tax breaks, mostly for businesses.

Gov. Jay Inslee supports the largest of those tax incentives. But overall, the Senate package unveiled Monday runs counter to the Democratic governor’s push to eliminate several tax exemptions to pay for education.

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Legal Marijuana
5:00 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Pot Tax Revenue Estimates Likely Hazy

File image
AP Photo

Within the next year, marijuana taxes will start arriving in Washington state coffers. But how much money can the state realistically expect to take in from legal, recreational pot sales? Washington’s revenue forecaster recently unveiled his first estimate, but the numbers may be a bit hazy.

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