The purpose of the re-launched Wire is to build a platform for political and economic voices across the spectrum of Washington State’s economy. We do that through this curated email twice a month, through our podcast we’ve launched, and through our website with archives going back to 2009. We also do it through our breakfast events, like the one yesterday on health reform.
Tomorrow, our Convening Panel will gather to talk through the agenda for our new fall policy conference. This is among the most impressive bi-partisan groups of thought leaders with which I have ever been involved. It’s a good group of folks. I’ll tell you all about them in our next newsletter, but until then, here are a few items from policy, politics, and political economy that we think are worth a read.
1. Capitol press corps goes “fishing”
Over the weekend, the capitol press corps, collectively, asked all 147 legislators for copies of all of their text messages and their calendars since the start of the legislative session. That’s a significant ask, and one that one legislator rightfully called “a fishing expedition.”
Rep. Mike Sells (D-Everett) is a wise and steady hand in the House, and a student of the interplay between the media and elected officials. But, even he got a little salty. “It is public information, but no substitute for good reporting and digging during the session.” The Public Disclosure Act makes no mention of text messages or SMS.
2. Key Arena RFP and NBA in Seattle
One of the thorniest community issues in Puget Sound for the last 15 years is the issue of Key Arena, and finding a home for a new NBA and NHL franchise. There was some promise with Chris Hansen’s SODO project, though that effort has faced its own political challenges.
The recent RFP for a renovation of Key Arena held promise too, including being the apparently preferred site of Mayor Ed Murray. Two organizations bid under the acronyms AEG and OVD. OVD’s proposed financial projections included $90m in city financing. This weekend, AEG pulled back its bid saying “the city has failed to conduct a sufficiently thorough, objective and transparent process.”
Despite AEG’s criticism, Brian Surratt, the city’s Director of Economic Development, held a series of stakeholder meetings on the arena, going above and beyond the normal standard of engagement. For those less interested in arenas and more interested in sports franchises, Brian Robinson asks “The Essential Question.”
3. Cascade Conference and Mainstream Republicans
The Mainstream Republicans of Washington recently held their annual conference in Leavenworth. The group is chaired by former Secretary of State Sam Reed, and is one of the smarter annual gatherings of politicos in Washington State.
One panel included former Sen. Slade Gorton and former Governor Dan Evans discussing “Can the center hold?” (Itself a reference to Yeats for you literary types.) A presentation on addressing homelessness offered that 35% of Washingtonians are paying more than 30% of their income in rent.
4. Budget implications of the revenue forecast
The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council meets this morning to present its view of the economy and revenue forecast. In materials released ahead of the meeting, the Council lowered its economic growth forecast from 2.3% to 2.1% for the year. Personal income and job growth were both adjusted downward from the previous March forecast. The next Revenue Forecast – the one that determines how much money the legislature can “book” in its budget – comes out June 20th.
In previous years, budget negotiators would wait to add in increased revenue from the June Revenue Forecast to their final budget negotiations. Those extra dollars would mean the gap between the Senate and House could be easier to close.
However, if the June 20th revenue projection ticks downward, based on today’s lower economic forecast, that’s an incentive to get the budget done before June 20th. Otherwise, any revenue tightening could exacerbate already difficult negotiations.
That’s an incentive to get out of town before the end game gets more complicated by a potentially lower than expected revenue projection.
5. Seattle mayoral fundraising totals
If you missed it, it was big news this week that Jenny Durkan has raised $163,000 in the first three weeks of her campaign. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you work hard as a candidate and know what you’re doing.
Interestingly, Durkan is followed by Nikkita Oliver with almost $47,000 raised. That’s also a significant amount, particularly for a first time candidate that is running without accepting large corporate donations. Mike McGinn and Cary Moon are each at about $13,000 raised. We have a PDC run down here.
6. Individual insurance market filings due today
Today, insurance companies will file their applications to sell insurance in 2018. Community Health Plan of Washington has already said they would not sell individual coverage on the exchange for 2018, focusing on their core Medicaid business instead. Because of the unpredictable nature of federal policy, around cost sharing reductions, and things like the individual mandate, it’s entirely likely rates will be relatively high. Oregon recently announced plans there had filed rates with up to 20% increases.
If plans leave the exchange, or if proposed rates climb significantly in Washington, there will likely be some political fallout. But, it’s not clear at whom it will be directed. Donald Trump? The ACA? The health care system?
7. Seattle increases density, strength of “bubble”
In case you missed this provocative piece in the NY Times, Seattle is rapidly increasing in density in both absolute and comparative terms. From the story: “Faster growth in the city’s neighborhoods meant that average neighborhood density was 3 percent higher in 2016 than in 2010.”
It also means that the Seattle bubble – the idea that Seattle is different from the rest of Washington State – is likely to deepen. “There’s a clear pattern in which metro areas are becoming more urban: Dense metros are getting denser. Meanwhile, sprawling metro areas are spreading out further. It’s another example of a polarized America, of places becoming more unlike each other: not only with respect to income inequality and politics, but also with growth patterns.”