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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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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Politics
8:47 am
Tue January 11, 2011

State senator sworn in amidst controversy

The first day of the Washington Legislature included an intra-party drama on the floor of the state senate. It happened during opening ceremonies Monday when an incumbent Democratic Senator tried to block a new senator from being sworn in. 

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State Ferries
3:59 pm
Thu January 6, 2011

Gregoire: Counties should take over state ferries

It’s sink or swim time for Washington state ferries. That’s the message from Governor Chris Gregoire. The nation’s largest ferry system is under water financially. 

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Education
6:00 am
Thu January 6, 2011

Superintendent fumes over Gregoire’s education plan

Washington voters elected him state superintendent of public schools. Now Governor Chris Gregoire wants to takeover his portfolio. Randy Dorn is fuming over the Governor’s proposal to create a cabinet-level Department of Education.

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2011 Legislative Session
7:45 am
Wed January 5, 2011

Lawmakers face budget blues in 2011 session

Washington lawmakers are singing the blues over the state’s budget woes. The legislature convenes Monday for a 105-day session. Once again, majority Democrats are confronted with a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall.

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State Budget
4:08 pm
Mon January 3, 2011

Lawmaker floats idea of victims’ compensation fund

People enjoy a sunny day outside the Washington state Capitol
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

In the current budget year, the state of Washington is on track to pay 60-million dollars to settle damage and personal injury lawsuits filed against the state. That has some lawmakers alarmed, especially in light of the state’s multi-billion dollar budget crisis. Now, one state representative has an idea for a 9-11 style victims’ compensation fund.

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Government Reform
5:35 am
Thu December 23, 2010

Lawsuit payouts spiking as state budget crumbles

Attorney General Rob Mckenna
John Froschauer AP

The amount of money the state pays out in lawsuits has doubled in the last four years to more than $50 million dollars a year. This spike in legal costs comes as Washington reduces funding for education, healthcare and other state services. But cutting Washington’s legal bills is no easy task.

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"Don't ask, don't tell"
5:00 pm
Mon December 20, 2010

Northwest soldiers have mixed feelings on 'don’t ask, don’t tell'

Northwest soldiers are expressing mixed opinions over the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The U-S Senate voted over the weekend to end the 17-year old policy that allows gays to serve, but not openly. The bill now goes to the President.

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Welfare Cards
2:28 pm
Mon December 20, 2010

Welfare recipients rack up millions in ATM fees

Washington welfare recipients are racking-up hundreds of thousand of dollars in ATM fees at non-Chase machines
Austin Jenkins N3

Welfare dollars are supposed to help the poorest of families pay for the necessities of life. But Washington welfare recipients are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each month on ATM surcharges. That’s what correspondent Austin Jenkins found through a public disclosure request. The finding comes as Washington’s welfare program faces budget cuts. 

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