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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Politics
10:58 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Governor Gregoire's parting budget emphasizes taxes

Gov. Chris Gregoire unveils her final budget before leaving office

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Taxes are a key part of Washington Governor Chris Gregoire’s final budget before leaving office . The outgoing Democrat released her proposed two-year spending plan Tuesday as required by law. Gregoire says she wrote her budget with incoming Governor Jay Inslee in mind. But he hasn’t exactly embraced it.

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Marijuana
3:02 pm
Sun December 16, 2012

Obama's pot comments leave more questions than answers

AP

OLYMPIA, Wash. – President Obama’s first comments about marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado leave more questions than answers. The President tells ABC news that federal agents have – quote – “bigger fish to fry” than recreational pot users.

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Politics
7:21 am
Mon December 10, 2012

One party control of Wash. senate could change this week

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington is currently a Democratic one party rule state. But that could change this week. A possible challenge to the Democrats' tenuous control of the Washington state senate could emerge. Senate Republicans have called a news conference Monday morning at the Capitol.

A bipartisan group of senators is expected make an announcement regarding the leadership of the state’s upper chamber. All it would take is two Democratic senators to join with Republicans to create a philosophical majority.

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Marijuana legalization
7:04 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

Wash. Liquor Board Has One Year To Catch Up To Pot Legalization

Drug Enforcement Agency

Originally published on Thu December 6, 2012 10:53 am

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Pot becomes legal in Washington on Thursday. But state officials have not even begun to write the complicated rules for who can grow it, process it and sell. That year-long process begins Wednesday.

By the end of this week, adult possession of up to one ounce of usable marijuana will no longer be a crime in Washington. But Initiative 502 -- approved by voters in November -- does much more than decriminalize possession. It requires the state to license and regulate marijuana producers, processors and retailers.

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2012 elections
3:00 pm
Mon October 22, 2012

They know if you’ve voted or not, and that’s not all

You get information from the Washington Secretary of State about candidates ... and the candidates get information about you.
Secretary of State

OLYMPIA, Wash. – In this era of mail-in balloting, political campaigns have become a bit like Santa Claus: He may know if you’ve been bad or good. But, they know whether you’ve voted yet or not - and who you’re likely to support.

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Gubernatorial Debate
10:23 am
Wed October 17, 2012

Personal attacks punctuate final McKenna, Inslee debate

Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna meet in Seattle for the final gubernatorial debate before the election.
Bettina Hansen The Seattle Times

The fifth and final debate between Washington’s candidates for governor was punctuated by personal attacks. Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna met in Seattle Tuesday night. The format encouraged them to engage each other.

One of the most personal exchanges came when the candidates had a chance to pose a question of each other. Republican McKenna asked Inslee to explain why the Democratic candidate has yet to pick up a single daily newspaper endorsement.

Inslee responded that he doesn’t work for the newspapers.

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Washington Gubernatorial Race
4:17 pm
Mon October 15, 2012

McKenna, Inslee vow no new taxes with caveats

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Ballots are about to go out in Washington. In the race for governor, both candidates are pledging to veto tax hikes. But Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee also leave themselves some wiggle room.

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Referendum 74
12:26 pm
Mon October 15, 2012

Checking the facts behind both sides of same-sex marriage ads

Simply Boaz Flickr

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Last minute money is pouring into the ballot fight over same-sex marriage in Washington. Those dollars are buying television ads on both sides of the issue. So what claims are the campaigns making?

Gay rights advocates say Referendum 74 is about marriage equality. But the first TV ad from the Preserve Marriage Washington campaign disputes that notion.

Announcer: “Referendum 74 is not about equality. Gays and lesbians already have the same legal rights as married couples.”

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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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