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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transportation package
2:14 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

Transpo Leaders: Window May Be Closing on Gas Tax Package

Rachel La Corte Associated Press

Time is running out for Washington lawmakers to agree on a multi-billion dollar roads and transit package. If they don’t act soon, a vote could be delayed for another year, said two key transportation leaders on Thursday.

Senators Tracey Eide, a Democrat, and Curtis King, a Republican, co-chair the Senate transportation committee.

“I’m worried that if we don’t do it in December, I don’t know if we’re going to see it next session,” said Eide, D-Federal Way.

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Gun Initiatives
1:59 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

Signatures Submitted for Dueling Gun Measures in Wash.

Alan Gottlieb of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms poses with boxes of petitions for Initiative 591, a gun rights initiative.
Austin Jenkins KPLU

Washington voters can expect dueling gun-related measures on next fall’s ballot. Sponsors of a gun rights initiative submitted nearly 350,000 signatures Thursday. 

Thirteen boxes labeled “Save Your Gun: Yes on 591” were loaded onto a cart and trucked into the Washington Secretary of State’s Office. Initiative 591 would prohibit the state from confiscating a gun without due process. It would also bar state background checks that go beyond federal standards.

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gas tax
4:02 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

In Olympia, Gas Tax Alliance Hits Rough Spot

Washington’s mostly-Republican Senate majority will formally unveil a proposed 12-year $12 billion transportation funding package Thursday. 

The move comes as environmentalists warn the details of the plan threaten to doom ongoing negotiations for a gas tax package.

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by the numbers
6:04 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Wash. State Welfare Rolls Hit Record Low

The number of families on cash assistance in Washington has hit an all-time low following a spike in welfare enrollment less than three years ago.

Republicans in the Washington Senate say the downward trend is a sign reform efforts have worked, but advocates for poor families disagree.

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corporate tax breaks
1:33 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

A Closely-Guarded Secret: State Tax Bill for Boeing, Others

Washington lawmakers recently approved an additional $8.7B in tax breaks for Boeing, however the company won’t release its total state tax liability.

Washington lawmakers recently rushed into special session to pass $8.7 billion in aerospace tax breaks in an attempt to land assembly work of Boeing’s next generation 777 airplane.

But how much does Boeing, or any other major company in Washington, pay in taxes? That’s actually a closely-guarded secret. Now, one state lawmaker wants to change that, and a hearing is scheduled for this Friday.

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marijuana licenses
3:17 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

Celebration, Angst as State Starts Accepting Pot License Applications

Jeff Gilmore, right, with partner Dave Brown have applied for a license to grow legal marijuana.
Austin Jenkins

The 30-day window for marijuana business licenses applications has opened in Washington. Would-be growers, processors and retailers applied online and in-person Monday.

At the Department of Revenue business licensing office, the flow of in-person applicants was more of a trickle, not a torrent on this historic day.

“This is absolutely amazing,” said Jeff Gilmore, who was among the first to apply for a license to grow legal pot after a career of growing illegally. “The state of Washington took two years of my life for growing marijuana two decades ago.”

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gas tax
9:59 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Gas Tax Package Negotiations Continue in Olympia

Rachel La Corte Associated Press

State lawmakers are negotiating a proposed gas tax package, a top priority of Gov. Jay Inslee and the Boeing company as it decides where to site the 777X assembly line.

Now that Boeing machinists have rejected a company contract offer, Washington will have to compete with other states to land the 777X. Inslee says approval of a transportation funding measure is essential to positioning the state well.

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Gun control initiative
4:03 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Bill And Melinda Gates Contribute to Wash. Gun Control Measure

FILE - Bill and Melinda Gates attend the Millennium Development Goals event, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 at U.N. headquarters.
Mary Altaffer Associated Press

Bill and Melinda Gates have each contributed $25,000 to the campaign to require background checks for most gun sales in Washington. The couple’s personal contributions late last month helped push the Yes on Initiative 594 campaign over the $1 million mark.

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marijuana licenses
1:07 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

State Pot License Investigators to Look for 'Hidden Ownership'

Associated Press

Pot entrepreneurs in Washington can apply for a business license beginning Monday, Nov. 18. The state now has a team of 14 license investigators ready to vet the applicants.

Becky Smith with the Washington Liquor Control Board says investigators will be sleuthing for hidden owners and out-of-state financial backers, as well as other violations of the rules.

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Pacific Tower
5:01 am
Tue November 12, 2013

State's Past Real Estate Pick Proved Money-Loser

Nick Cockrell with Washington’s Department of Enterprise Services gives a tour of the state-owned Rhodes Center in Tacoma, Wash.
Austin Jenkins

The state of Washington is expected to sign a 30-year lease Tuesday for Seattle’s iconic Pacific Tower, or the so-called PacMed building, on Beacon Hill. The idea is to turn the former headquarters of Amazon.com into a hub for health care innovation and training. 

The plan is reminiscent of another big real estate decision the state made nearly 20 years ago—one that’s proven costly.

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boeing package
10:07 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Gas Tax or No Gas Tax in Special Session?

This image shows the Boeing 777x assembly line in Everett, Wash.
Ashley Gross KPLU

As Washington lawmakers convene in an effort to win production of the next Boeing 777x, there’s already a dispute over whether one of the must-haves is a gas tax package for transportation improvements.

Gov. Jay Inslee insists the time is now, but some lawmakers say road funding can wait.

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initiative 522
8:45 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Wash. State Voters Defeating GMO Labeling Initiative

Initiative 522 supporters listen to speeches after early vote returns showed the measuring trailing by nearly double-digits.
Austin Jenkins

 

A Washington state ballot measure requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods is failing in early returns.

The campaign over Initiative 522 has been one of the costliest initiative fights in state history, drawing millions of dollars from out of state.

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initiative 522
8:13 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Power of Messaging on Display in GMO Labeling Fight

Associated Press

Voters are about to decide whether Washington becomes the first state in the nation to label some genetically engineered foods.

A poll last month showed Initiative 522 with a 4-point lead and 12-percent of voters still undecided.

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Development
10:12 am
Thu October 31, 2013

Deal or Debacle? Terms of PacMed Building Lease Raise Questions

Wonderlane Flickr

The state of Washington is about to make a major real estate decision on a Seattle landmark that supporters say will transform health care training for the next generation.

The proposed lease of Seattle’s Pacific Tower, or the PacMed building as it's sometimes called, has been called “a nightmare.”

Powerful interests, including Washington’s Speaker of the House, want to turn the former Amazon headquarters into a training center for future health care workers and a hub for nonprofit groups. But internal state agency documents raise serious questions about the terms and cost of the deal.

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transportation package
5:10 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

Governor, Lawmakers Meet on Transportation

Gov. Jay Inslee has said he wants a transportation funding package on his desk by the Apple Cup at the end of November. Key lawmakers met with the Democratic governor Wednesday on this topic.

Afterward, Sen. Tracey Eide, co-chair of the Senate Tranportation Committee, was noncommittal when asked whether there will be a special session of the Legislature in November.

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