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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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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Washington State Legislature
9:46 am
Thu February 16, 2012

Washington Democrats may find path to avoid sales tax measure

If Washington's new revenue forecast is positive, the state may avoid the governor's proposal to ask voters to approve a half-penny sales tax hike. Photo by Austin Jenkins

Originally published on Wed February 15, 2012 5:31 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Democrats in the Washington legislature are suddenly hopeful they can rebalance the state budget without asking voters to approve a tax hike. Their optimism comes even before they see the latest revenue forecast out Thursday.

For majority Democrats the budget stars could be aligning. A new caseload forecast shows demand for state services is down. That means the current $900 million budget hole drops to less than $600 million. Plus, House Republicans have reversed their position and now support ending a tax break for out of state banks.

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Washington State Legislature
5:40 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

New teacher evaluation system passes senate in Washington

Originally published on Tue February 14, 2012 5:26 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington state senate has approved a new four-tier teacher evaluation system. The bill that passed Tuesday also creates a mechanism for firing under-performing teachers who don't improve.

School kids are graded A through F. But not teachers in Washington. For the most part they're still evaluated on a pass-fail system. But that's changing.

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Election 2012
6:57 am
Tue February 14, 2012

Santorum speaks out on same-sex marriage in Washington

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum speaking at a news conference at the Washington Capitol. Photo by Austin Jenkins

Originally published on Mon February 13, 2012 5:06 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. - On a campaign swing through Washington, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said opponents of same-sex marriage should - in his words - "continue the fight."

"Fight for what they believe is the best, optimal situation for children to be raised in society and the optimal situation that government should support in terms of men and women coming together in marriage," Santorum said.

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Politics
12:01 am
Mon February 13, 2012

Charter schools backers still want vote in Wash. Legislature

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 3:16 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Forty one states allow charter schools. But not Washington. Opponents in the legislature recently killed a bipartisan proposal to allow a limited number of under-performing schools to convert. But supporters of the idea haven't given up.

For the legislature it was high drama. A stand-off in the Senate Education Committee. A coalition of five Republicans and two Democrats had the votes to advance the charter school bill.

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Washington State Legislature
9:22 am
Fri February 10, 2012

With gay marriage passed in Washington, it's back to budget and taxes

Originally published on Thu February 9, 2012 5:24 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Now that gay marriage has passed, it's back to the budget and taxes for Washington lawmakers. The 60-day session is more than halfway over. Next week will bring the February revenue forecast. Then majority Democrats plan to roll out a budget and possible tax hikes.

Gay marriage has overshadowed just about everything else in the Washington legislature. Legislative offices were deluged with calls and emails. The floor votes emotional and historic.

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Politics
11:34 am
Thu February 9, 2012

Both Sides Of Gay Marriage Debate React To Wash. House Vote

Photo by Chantal Andrea.

Originally published on Wed February 8, 2012 5:23 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Gay marriage supporters are thrilled. Opponents are gearing up for a ballot fight. That's the dynamic after the Washington House voted Wednesday to send a same-sex marriage bill to the governor.

Up in the marble nosebleeds, proponents of gay marriage watched the debate quietly. But when the vote was tallied the celebration went on for more than a minute.

Susan Fairo cheered with her partner of 17 years. "I'm relieved, I'm delighted," she said. "It felt like a historic moment. So, we're a step farther."

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Gay rights
1:37 pm
Wed February 8, 2012

National org. prepares for gay marriage repeal effort in Washington

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Gay marriage isn’t the law in Washington yet, but national opponents are already preparing for a repeal campaign.

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