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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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

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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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Minimum Wage
11:37 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Inslee Explores Minimum Wage Hike For State Workers, Contractors

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AP Photo

President Barack Obama recently ordered a minimum wage increase for federal contractors. Now Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says he may consider a similar executive order at the state level.

The Democrat made his comments Friday after a meeting with the president at the White House where minimum wage was discussed.

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Pot & Prohibition
10:47 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Pot Legalization: What Can Washington Learn From The End Of Prohibition?

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AP Photo

Come summer, marijuana stores will open for business across Washington. The new legal pot market is modeled on a system the state adopted 80 years ago when Prohibition ended.

I wondered if there are other parallels between the legalization of alcohol then and marijuana today.

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Regulating Marijuana
11:59 am
Wed February 19, 2014

State Liquor Board Cuts Back How Much Legal Pot Producers Can Grow

AP Photo

Applicants to grow recreational pot in Washington could have their state licenses in hand two weeks for now. But they won’t be able to produce as much marijuana as they originally thought.

Washington’s Liquor Control Board Wednesday instituted new limits designed to avoid a market glut.

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Real Hope Act
9:10 am
Wed February 19, 2014

Wash. State Lawmakers Send ‘Real Hope’ Act To Governor

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2014, the Legislative Building at the Washington state Capitol in Olympia, Wash., is shown as rain falls on the sundial in the foreground.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

A late vote in the Washington Legislature has the children of immigrants cheering, literally. On Tuesday night, the state House overwhelmingly approved a measure to allow high school graduates who came to this country illegally with their parents to apply for state financial aid.

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Minimum Wage
1:10 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Why Democrats Are Suddenly Talking About Minimum Wage

Spectators look in from outside the House chambers as Gov. Jay Inslee waves during the annual State of the State address to a joint session of the Legisture Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Olympia, Wash.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

 

We’re hearing a lot these days about raising the minimum wage.

President Obama talked about it in his State of the Union address last month. SeaTac voters approved a $15 per hour base wage last fall. And there’s a push now to adopt the same in Seattle. Even in Idaho, there’s a minimum wage campaign afoot.

It turns out this is no accident; it's part of a national effort to put the issue before politicians and voters.

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Marijuana Banking
11:07 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Feds Clear Way For Banks To Do Business With Marijuana Industry

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AP Photo

Marijuana businesses in Washington may soon be able to open a bank account. The Obama administration on Friday issued new guidance to banks regarding drug proceeds.

The three-page memo by the Department of Justice signals that banks that do business with licensed, above-board marijuana businesses likely won’t face prosecution.

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Gas Tax Package
5:16 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Washington Senate Majority Unveils New Gas Tax Package, Votes Lacking

mathteacherguy Flickr

The members of the mostly-Republican majority in the Washington Senate say they want to jumpstart negotiations on a gas tax package to fund roads and transit in Washington state.

They unveiled a revised funding proposal Thursday, but also acknowledged they don’t have the votes to pass it.

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