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
2:23 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

On second try, state House passes gas tax measure

Rachel La Corte Associated Press

The Washington House has approved a $10 billion transportation package that includes a 10.5 cent gas tax increase over two years. The vote Thursday followed a failed effort Wednesday to approve the same measure. 

It was a rare do-over vote on the House floor. And State Representative Marko Liias, a Democrat, acknowledged as much.

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state budget
11:37 am
Thu June 27, 2013

Gov't shutdown averted: Gov. announces budget deal

<> Flickr

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says a government shutdown on Monday has been averted. The Democrat announced a budget deal Thursday that comes just in the nick of time. Monday is the start of a new fiscal year and without a signed budget much of state government would have been shuttered.

“The deal reached today makes it clear that state government will continue to operate. We will be notifying all state employees to be at work on Monday, July 1. Government operations will not be interrupted," the governor said. 

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proposed gas tax hike
5:00 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Gas tax package falls short in state House

<> Flickr

A proposal to raise Washington’s gas tax by 10.5 cents to fund transportation projects has failed in the state House. Supporters on Wednesday came up one vote short. But they vow to try again.

The transportation revenue package would raise $10 billion for maintenance and preservation of existing roads and to fund new projects. The proposal calls for a 6 cent gas tax increase this summer followed by another 4.5 cent increase next July. On the House floor, Republican Ed Orcutt blasted the proposal as an unaffordable tax hike.

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perks of elected office
3:34 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Trip to Turkey, Azerbaijan marks state senator's foreign travel

Washington state Senator Pam Roach appears on Azerbaijani television during a trip in May to strengthen relations between the U.S. and Azerbaijan.
Sen. Pam Roach

It can be one of the perks of elected office: free trips to foreign lands. Recently, several Washington state lawmakers were invited on a 10-day tour of Turkey and Azerbaijan. This particular overseas excursion has raised questions in the Capitol about when a foreign trip is legitimate legislative business and when it’s a junket.

The invitations were hand delivered to legislative offices earlier this spring. The cover letter began: “We want to invite you to Turkey and the U.S.-Azerbaijan Convention.”

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government shutdown
4:44 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

State budget talks heat up, gov't shutdown details emerge

From left to right, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's Chief of Staff Mary Alice Heuschel, Julie Murray from the Office of Financial Management, and Inslee's general counsel, Nicholas Brown, listen to a question from the media about contingency plans for a pote
Rachel La Corte Associated Press

The push is on to reach a final budget deal in Olympia. Top legislative leaders met Thursday in an attempt to bridge their final differences.

Meanwhile, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of what a government shutdown on July 1 would look like if no agreement is reached.

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outdoor marijuana grows
4:13 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

Liquor Control Board staff: Allow outdoor marijuana grows

Licensed outdoor marijuana grows may be allowed in Washington after all.

Staff at the state’s Liquor Control Board said Wednesday they’ve been persuaded by potential growers to consider alternatives to energy-intensive indoor pot production.

Meanwhile, medical marijuana patients rallied at the state Capitol in opposition possible new restrictions on them.

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state budget
11:24 am
Tue June 18, 2013

Positive revenue news could break budget logjam in Olympia

There’s suddenly a flurry of talk in Olympia about a quick resolution to the weeks-long budget stalemate. The change in rhetoric follows Tuesday’s positive revenue and caseload forecasts.

Budget writers will now have more than $300 million in additional funds to help bridge their differences, thanks to a recovering housing market and improved consumer confidence.

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Washington Budget
2:09 pm
Fri June 14, 2013

Government shutdown? Prisons would stay open, but much of the state would not

Office of the Governor

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 3:10 pm

Washington prisons would stay open, but much of the state would not if there’s a government shutdown. Governor Jay Inslee met with his cabinet Wednesday to begin contingency planning if there’s no budget by the end of the month. That’s the start of the new fiscal year.

“We’re not talking about opening the prison doors because there are clear federal mandates from the federal constitution and federal laws to provide for folks that are in our care and custody,” says Nick Brown, the Governor’s attorney.

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Washington Budget
11:09 am
Fri June 14, 2013

Washington estate tax refunds halted after midnight bill signing

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Fri June 14, 2013 3:16 pm

There were dramatic developments in Olympia overnight. Governor Jay Inslee held a midnight bill signing to amend Washington’s estate tax. The move means the Department of Revenue will not begin to issue refund checks Friday morning to the heirs of some multi-million dollar estates.

The state of Washington was about to embark on a months-long process of refunding an estimated $140 million to more than 100 estates. This was the result of a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year. The money would have come out of a fund dedicated to public schools.

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Washington Legislature
3:15 pm
Wed June 12, 2013

Washington Legislature Convenes Second Special Session

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Wed June 12, 2013 2:41 pm

The opening gavel has once again fallen in the Washington legislature.

"The second extraordinary session of the 63rd legislature will now be in order,” said a deadpan Lt. Governor Brad Owen Wednesday morning in the state Senate.

The second overtime session is necessary because lawmakers have yet to find agreement on a budget for the next two years. Taxes and controversial policy measures are the chief hang ups.

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Washington Legislature
11:45 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Inslee Announces Second Special Session, Prepares For Government Shutdown

Christina Salerno TVW

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 3:46 pm

Washington Governor Jay Inslee will call lawmakers back into a second special session beginning at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday. He’s also beginning preparations for a government shutdown on July 1 if there’s no deal by then.

The moves come as the 30th and final day of the first overtime session comes and goes with still no budget deal.

At a news conference, Democrat Inslee blamed the stalemate on the mostly Republican Senate Majority for insisting on several controversial policy measures he says are unrelated to the budget.

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marijuana regulation
4:30 am
Tue June 11, 2013

Critics call state's new pot logo promotional

Washington’s Liquor Control Board has been inundated with feedback on its proposed marijuana regulations. The deadline to submit comments was Monday. The Board is writing the rules for legalized cannabis. Among the many concerns: the state’s new pot logo.

It’s called the Produced in Washington icon. It’s an outline of the state with a marijuana leaf in the middle. The idea was to require this label be affixed to any package containing marijuana sold at a retail store.

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State Budget
9:01 am
Mon June 10, 2013

Time Is Nearly Up For Washington Budget Deal

Cacophony Wikimedia

Originally published on Mon June 10, 2013 7:55 am

Washington’s overtime legislative session ends at midnight on Tuesday. But there’s still no agreement on a state budget for the next two years.

Over the weekend, the mostly Republican senate majority passed a revised version of its own spending plan, along with a trio of controversial policy measures.

The three policy bills are not new, the Senate passed them during the regular session. The difference is two of them now have referendum clauses, meaning voters would get the final say.

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Washington Legislature
9:58 am
Thu June 6, 2013

Washington Senate majority back to 25 members

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Wed June 5, 2013 3:35 pm

The Washington Senate’s coalition caucus has reclaimed its majority status. Republican Steve O’Ban was sworn in Wednesday. He fills the seat of the late Mike Carrell who died last week during treatment of a pre-leukemia condition.

O’Ban’s appointment was fast-tracked in order to restore the mostly Republican coalition’s one vote majority during final budget negotiations.

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special session
3:59 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

State budget impasse prompts finger-pointing

mathteacherguy Flickr

There’s one week left in Washington’s special legislative session and still no budget deal. Gov. Jay Inslee and the Senate majority caucus held dueling news conferences Tuesday, complete with plenty of finger-pointing.

The governor went first. Inslee, a Democrat, blasted the mostly-Republican senate majority for an estate tax measure that passed out of committee late last week. Inslee called it a new tax break for more than 200 wealthy Washingtonians at the expense of public schools.

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