Archive for Governors Office

Gov. Inslee responds to Senate firing of WSDOT Secretary Lynn Peterson

By | February 9, 2016 | 0 Comments

DSC_0874Gov. Jay Inslee criticized Senate Republicans on Monday for ousting Washington Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson, describing the rejection of her confirmation as an “election year stunt” for which he said Republicans should be “ashamed.”

On Friday afternoon, the Senate voted 21-25 not to confirm Peterson three years after she was appointed to the position by the governor. She has already left her post and the agency is currently being led by Deputy Secretary Roger Millar.

Watch the governor’s press conference here.

Inslee criticized specific legislators at the press conference, including Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Sen. Curtis King and Sen. Andy Hill, R-Kirkland, saying they had taken part in a “political ambush.”

“Senator Hill and other Senators could have talked to Secretary Peterson about any concerns they had,” Inslee said. “They did not. They chose to sandbag her on the floor on a Friday afternoon.”

Inslee said King has previously praised the transportation secretary, then was silent as he watched “his colleagues take her head off on a Friday massacre.”

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler never raised concerns about Peterson either, Inslee said, even during a discussion about WSDOT data last week.

“I asked him to provide us any information he had that he was concerned about,” said Inslee. “He just shrugged it off.”

Inslee said that Friday was an obvious “gross abuse” of the confirmation process and it was “built on a totally false narrative.”

The governor said the Senate Republicans were doing the same with their investigation of the Department of Corrections. DOC Secretary Dan Pacholke resigned on Saturday afternoon, writing in his resignation letter that he hoped it would satisfy a “need for blood.”

At a press conference on Monday, Senate Republicans responded to Inslee’s harsh comments.

Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, said the Senate’s vote should not come as a surprise, given that people across the state are dissatisfied by WSDOT’s performance.

“I think that it’s almost an open secret in this town that many people were dissatisfied with Department of Transportation and her leadership,” he said. “This has been building as long as I’ve been here.”

Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Tacoma, said the issue comes down to whether or not people have confidence in WSDOT.

“We entrusted to that department, at the close of the last session, $15 billion worth of projects,” O’Ban said. “And it was the beginning of this session we had to ask ourselves ‘Do we have the confidence in this department head to manage those projects?’ Those projects are so crucial to our state and it was the conclusion of the caucus that we did not have that confidence. So we needed to make that change as soon as we could.”

Senate Republicans said they were surprised by Pacholke’s resignation, and they plan to move forward with their investigation into why the DOC mistakenly released 3,200 prisoners early over 13 years. O’ban said the Senate has already received complaints — including some anonymous tips — submitted through a website created for the Senate investigation, www.fixdoc.org.

“This investigation of the Senate has given a voice to Department of Correction employees, who for a long time have been concerned about upper management,” O’Ban said. The Senate Law and Justice Committee will have an update on the DOC investigation during Wednesday’s 6:30 p.m. hearing.

Sen. Sharon Nelson, D- Maury Island, also commented on Friday’s Senate vote at a press conference on Monday. She said their actions were dramatic and it could lead to other agency heads questioning their future.

“When you do something like that you destabilize an agency,” she said. “Because there’s an element of fear and concern in the way it was done.”

Senate committee votes in favor of subpoena resolution related to DOC error

By | January 19, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Senate Law and Justice Committee will issue two subpoenas to the Department of Corrections and the Governor’s office for records related to the mistaken early release of 3,200 prisoners. This comes after the Rules Committee approved a resolution authorizing subpoena powers on a 13-7 vote on Tuesday evening. Lt. Gov. Brad Owen signed the subpoenas.

Watch TVW video of the Rules Committee here.

The error was a result of a coding miscalculation in the DOC electronic records system dating back to 2002. Gov. Jay Inslee has hired two retired federal prosecutors to conduct an independent investigation into why the problem wasn’t fixed sooner.

Sen. Mike Padden

Sen. Mike Padden

At a meeting of the Senate Law and Justice Committee earlier Tuesday, Republican chair Sen. Mike Padden urged members to support the resolution that was sent to the Rules Committee. He said the governor has an obligation to investigate, but “that doesn’t mean we have to defer to the governor.”

“We as legislators have an independent obligation separate from the governor,” he said. “We are a co-equal branch of the government.”

Padden said the committee’s investigation would differ from the governor’s because it would be a public process with people speaking under oath. He said the subpoenas would initially only seek documents related to the error, but it could later compel witnesses to testify.

Republican Vice Chair Sen. Steve O’Ban was critical of the governor’s investigators, saying they do not plan to record interviews with DOC employees.

“This is why we need public testimony to establish those facts so that those employees are on record and they can’t later change their view,” he said.

O’Ban said he asked the investigators if requesting documents and conducting a review would interfere with their investigation, and they said no.

Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D­–Seattle, voted against the committee resolution, saying that subpoena powers should be used sparingly and only when necessary.

“I believe that the governor’s office and the Department of Corrections have cooperated substantially with us and there’s no reason to believe that is about to stop,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen said he’s concerned that using subpoena power will impede the governor’s investigation.

“I’m worried that moving forward with this process earlier then when given the results of the investigation, that there’s the potential to cause the witnesses to believe they need to lawyer up and be less forthcoming,” he said.

Sen. David Frockt, D–Seattle, also voted against the resolution. He expressed confidence in the governor’s investigation and said it should completed during the legislative session.

“I think that once this investigation is complete, that will give us a window into what actually transpired,” Frockt said. “I think that our legislative oversight power can best be exercised subsequent to the investigation.”

Republican Sen. Pam Roach said in 27 sessions with the Legislature, “I have never seen this done before.” She said she believes it’s a process that’s important for Washingtonians to see.

“This is a part of our system that allows the state of Washington to actually provide checks and balances,” she said.

Sen. Kirk Pearson, R–Monroe, also supported the resolution, saying in the 16 years that he’s been in office there have been five DOC secretaries. It’s time to take a good look at the DOC, he said.

“Transparency makes for good government,” he said.

Watch TVW video of the Senate Law and Justice hearing here.

The subpoenas will be sent to the Governor’s office and DOC this week. Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith released a statement after the resolution passed saying their office will continue to provide documents.

“The fact is, Senate Republicans are planning to issue subpoenas for the exact same documents we’re already processing and providing to them from earlier requests,” she said. “There is no information to be gained through a subpoena that isn’t already available to them through normal public records procedures.”

On ‘The Impact:’ More on the early prisoner release, House higher ed priorities

By | January 19, 2016 | 0 Comments
Host Anita Kissée speaks with Senate Law and Justice Chair Mike Padden and Vice Chair Steve O’Ban.

Host Anita Kissée speaks with Senate Law and Justice Chair Mike Padden and Vice Chair Steve O’Ban.

This week on “The Impact,” a follow-up on the Department of Corrections error that released over 3,000 Washington prisoners early. Plus, a closer look at House Higher Education Committee’s goals for the short session.

Host Anita Kissée interviews Republican Senators Mike Padden and Steve O’Ban about their disappointment with how the governor has handled the investigation of the error and their decision to seek subpoena power to investigate on their own.

The Department of Corrections released a video earlier this week detailing how the additional time was calculated under the error — watch it here.

The show also details the governor’s response to their complaints — and his reasoning behind hiring two third-party investigators to look into the mistake.

More information about the prisoners under investigation and the 107 prisoners identified for return to custody is available here.

Also on the show: House Higher Education Committee Chair Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, and Ranking Minority Member Rep. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, will discuss their legislative priorities for the session and how the state is handling tuition cuts.

“The Impact” airs Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 7 & 10 p.m.

Republican response to Gov. Inslee’s State of the State

By | January 13, 2016 | 0 Comments

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 10.38.36 AMRepublican Sen. Jan Angel of Port Orchard responded to Gov. Jay Inslee’s State for the State on Tuesday, saying she agrees with steps made toward education, transportation investment, “unlocking family wage jobs,” and progress on the mental health system. Watch the TVW video of her response here.

“These huge strides came hand-in-hand with a recovering economy,” she said. “That’s why we resisted the governor’s efforts to create new taxes which would only strangle a reviving economy.”

Angel criticized the governor’s supplemental budget plan, which calls for spending additional money hiring and retaining teachers.

“Every year, the governor seems to ignore state laws that require our budgets to balance over four years,” she said. “Sending a wish list of spending ideas to the Legislature without a sustainable way to pay for them fails to accept the reality of governing.”

She concluded with saying the Republicans will focus this year on restoring charter schools, maintaining a long-term budget and refusing new taxes.

Republican leaders also commented on the governor’s speech at a press conference.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said this is the first time he’s seen a governor politicize the State Investment Board. Inslee asked the board to exercise its voting authority to reduce the widening pay gap between CEOs and workers.

“I hope that the independent members of the State Investment Board dismiss this as election year politics,” Schoesler said. “We need to stick to investing and stay out of politics.”

Schoesler also took aim at the governor’s plan to hire as many as 7,000 new teachers, saying Washington schools are only producing about a 1,000 teaching graduates each year. “Even if we did have the money, they may not be readily available,” he said.

House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen addressed the mistakes that lead to the early release of over 3,00 prisoners, saying that there needs to be accountability. He claimed that information provided by the governor’s office shows that two governor’s administrations knew about the DOC computer error starting in 2002 and 2012.

“The information that we received was that it was made known to administration in 2002,” he said.

The governor’s spokeswoman Jaime Smith responded to the claim,  saying “The King decision in 2002 was when DOC made the original changes in their system. I’m not sure if/what prior Administrations knew about the sequencing error resulting in the miscalculation, but our understanding is that 2012 is when the victim’s family brought it to DOC’s attention. We were aware of it last month.”

Watch Republican press conference here.

 

State of the State: Inslee focuses on education, min wage and mental health

By | January 13, 2016 | 0 Comments

DSC_0520 (1)Gov. Jay Inslee delivered the 2016 State of the State address on Tuesday before a joint session of the House and Senate, focusing on teacher pay and education, wildfires and mental health.

Inslee outlined four issues that he says must get done during the 60-day legislative session:

  • Recruiting and retaining teachers to address a shortage. Inslee proposed a plan to raise the beginning salary of a teacher to $40,000 a year, provide a one percent raise to all teachers and increase funding for teacher mentoring programs. He plans to pay for it through the “elimination of some tax breaks.”
  • Recovering from devastating summer wildfires. The governor proposed using the Budget Stabilization Account to cover the $180 million in costs from last year’s fires, as well as using $29 million from the Disaster Response Account to help communities recover from the natural disaster.
  • Fixing the mental health system. Inslee says the system is facing “urgent short-term needs,” and said his supplemental budget proposal includes funding for four new crisis triage facilities and and three new mobile crisis teams.
  • Finally he urged the completion of a framework for an education funding plan. He said a first-step plan is “absolutely necessary this session,” and that “there’s no reason” basic education can’t be fully funded by 2017.

Inslee also addressed minimum wage during his speech. He is supporting a statewide initiative that phases in what he says is a “true” minimum wage and provides paid sick leave.

“In a nutshell: People are working harder, they’re working longer hours and they’re getting paid less in real dollars,” he said.

The governor also said he was concerned with the growing wage gap between CEOs and workers. He said he believes the State Investment Board can help by voting against executive compensation packages.

“I’ve asked the investment board to go further and exercise its voting authority to reduce the widening pay gap between CEOs and their workers,” Inslee said. “I’m encouraging the board to promote this policy with other state and institutional investors.”

He also touched on the need for stronger firearm related background checks and carbon pollution.

The governor ended his speech on a lighter note: “Go Hawks!”

Before the speech, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen recognized several officials in the crowd, including Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Everett Mayor Ray Stephenson and former Secretary of State, Ralph Munro. Carmento Floyd, the widow of former WSU President Elson Floyd, received a standing ovation.

Missing from statewide elected officials: Auditor Troy Kelley and Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn. Dorn left a note on the seat saying, “Reserved for kids and students.”

Watch the full State of the State address on TVW here.

Seahawks are playoff bound: Gov. Jay Inslee raises “12th Man” flag

By | January 7, 2016 | 0 Comments

A crowd of Seahawks fans clad in green and blue gathered around the flag circle on the Capitol lawn Thursday to watch Gov. Jay Inslee raise the “12th Man” flag.  Inslee threw the football around with the Seahawks mascot, “Blitz,” and executive ordered a Packers fan to help raise the flag. The crowd — chanting “Sea! Hawks! Sea! Hawks!” — was hyped up in anticipation of Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.

#GoHawks


Watch the video here:

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Inslee set to announce initiative to reduce gun violence Wednesday

By | January 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

Inslee-press-conferenceOn Wednesday Gov. Jay Inslee will announce a statewide initiative to reduce gun deaths, saying “we have a moral and ethical obligation to do so.” His announcement comes after President Obama’s executive action today on gun control.

Obama’s announcement this morning included plans to reinforce background checks–requiring those who sell firearms to have a license and perform background checks. He also says the FBI will  completely overhaul the current background check system. Further, he plans to increase mental health treatment and reporting to the background system as well as push for gun safety technology.

“President Obama’s actions are important steps forward to address the root causes of this scourge by improving data sharing, more effectively implementing current law, and advancing gun safety technology,” Inslee said in a statement released Tuesday.

The governor also praised the president’s proposal to invest more in mental health. “While we still struggle to fund the comprehensive behavioral health care system we need, like the rest of the nation, we know first-hand the importance of services for those in crisis to combat suicide and violence against others,” Inslee wrote.

Dr. Jennifer Stuber, an associate professor at the UW School of Social Work, and Dr. Monica S. Vavilala, Director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center will also be joining the governor.

The announcement will be made at Navos Mental Health and Wellness Center in Revelle Hall (1210 SW 136th St, Burien) at 12 p.m. Wednesday.

Alleged Driver in Fatal Crash Mistakenly Released From Prison Early

By | December 28, 2015 | 0 Comments

There’s more fallout from the error that allowed Washington state prisoners to be mistakenly released early. After reviewing records, the Washington Department of Corrections says two offenders allegedly committed new crimes when they should have been incarcerated, including one who reportedly killed a woman in a car crash.

A computer calculation error allowed Robert Jackson to be released from prison on August 10, instead of his original sentence release date of December 6, 2015. While out of custody, investigators say Jackson lost control of a car and crashed, killing his girlfriend Lindsay Hill. The 35-year-old mother of two was thrown from the vehicle in front of her Bellevue apartment. Hill’s 13-year-old son heard the crash and later found his mother, after police say Jackson fled.

“Nothing I can say will bring back Ms. Hill. I deeply regret that this happened,” DOC Secretary Dan Pacholke said in a written statement. “On behalf of the Department of Corrections, I apologize.”

The DOC says Jackson is in custody and charged with vehicular homicide. He had been serving time for a 2010 robbery.

“Today’s news from DOC is absolutely gut-wrenching and heart-breaking,” said Governor Inslee in an emailed statement. “I spoke with Lindsay Hill’s family today and let them know that Washingtonians’ hearts are with them during these very difficult days.”

The Governor announced last week, since 2002 a programming error allowed 3,200 prisoners to mistakenly be released early for good behavior. The offenders all had enhanced sentences, which made them ineligible for early release.

Certain unnamed people within the DOC were aware of the problem in 2012 after a victim’s family voiced concerns, but the software fix was never implemented.

Governor Inslee learned of the problem last week and launched an immediate, independent investigation. He also ordered a halt to all releases that could be impacted until a hand calculation is done. The software update should be ready by early next month.

“There is nothing that can right this horrible wrong. We must make sure nothing like this happens again,” said Inslee.

In addition to Jackson, the DOC believes one other offender allegedly committed a crime while out of prison when they should not have been. That person is missing. The agency says it is continuing to review records to make sure there are no more.

As for other prisoners who need to be returned to state custody, five are back behind bars. The DOC identified an additional two dozen who need to return to complete their sentences, but the majority will not due to a court ruling that provides day-for-day credit while out in the community, as long as the offender hasn’t committed another crime.

Washington Prisoners Mistakenly Released Early

By | December 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

Some Washington felons may be headed back to prison after a computer error mistakenly allowed them to be released early.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday that 3,200 Washington prisoners were let go before their sentences were complete. For the last 13 years, a Department of Corrections computer software program incorrectly calculated credit for “good time” served.  The error affects about three-percent of all state inmates during that time period.

The governor says he’s ordered immediate action to correct the long-standing problem, and ordered an external review to determine how this happened and why it took so long to address, even though the problem was discovered in 2012.

“These were serious errors with serious implications,” Gov. Inslee said. “When I learned of this I ordered DOC to fix this, fix it fast, and fix it right.” The Governor’s office says it was alerted to the mistake last week.

Department of Corrections new Secretary, Dan Pacholke, called the situation an “unforgivable error.”

During a press conference in the governor’s office he said, “I’ve apologized to the governor personally on behalf of the Department of Corrections. I want to offer the same apology to the public.”

State officials say the problem dates back to a July 2002 ruling by the Washington Supreme Court. It requires DOC apply “good time” credit earned in county jails. Offenders with sentencing enhancements are supposed to be exempt from that, but the DOC computer applied it anyway. 

The amount of days prisoners did not serve ranges from “a couple of days” to 600, but the governor’s chief legal counsel, Nick Brown, says the median number is 49.

The state is working with local law enforcement to identify those inmates who need to go back and complete their sentences, either in prison or work release. So far, that’s seven people.  Five are already in custody. Brown expects that number to increase, but says most of the offenders impacted will not be re-incarcerated because of a previous Supreme Court ruling. Their time back home in the community will count day for day.

DOC learned of the problem in 2012 when a crime victim’s family did their own calculations on their offender’s release. The state says the sequencing fix was launched at that time, but for reasons that will be investigated, it was repeatedly delayed. Only when DOC’s new chief information officer discovered the problem, was leadership notified.

Secretary Pacholke says he just learned of the error last week, and does not know if the previous administration had any knowledge of it.  “How that did not rise up in the agency to the highest levels is not clear to me,” Pacholke said.

“That this problem was allowed to continue for 13 years is deeply disappointing to me, totally unacceptable and, frankly, maddening,” Inslee said.

The software is expected to be updated and fixed by early January. Until then, Gov. Inslee halted all further releases of inmates with sentencing enhancements until a hand calculation is done, the numbers are verified, and the release is personally approved.

Two retired federal prosecutors, Robert Westinghouse and Carl Blackstone from the firm of Yarmuth Wilsdon PLLC, were hired to conduct an independent review.

“I have a lot of questions about how and why this happened, and I understand that members of the public will have those same questions,” Gov. Inslee said. “I expect the external investigation will bring the transparency and accountability we need to make sure this issue is resolved.”

Offenders with questions can call 360-725-8213.

Resources available on the DOC website:

Governor Inslee proposes new teacher pay raises paid for by closing tax breaks

By | December 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

New teachers in Washington would garner higher salaries under a proposal introduced Thursday by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.

Governor Jay Inslee News Conference

Governor Jay Inslee unveils his 2016 supplemental budget proposal.

In his 2016 supplemental budget proposal, the governor would raise the starting salary for teachers to $40,000. The estimated cost is $80 million dollars next year, and $100 million every year after that.

To pay for the raises, Gov. Inslee wants to close or alter four “outdated” tax breaks.

Refund the state portion of sales tax to nonresidents: Shoppers from states with no sales tax, like Oregon, would have to apply for a state sales tax refund on purchases in Washington. No longer would the discount be applied instantly. Saved over three years = $79.3 million

-Repeal the sales tax break on bottled water: Saved over three years = $82.9 million

-Limit the real estate excise tax exemption (REET) for banks: Connected to foreclosed properties. Saved over three years = $106.7 million

-Repeal the use tax exemption for extracted fuel: Claimed by the state’s oil refineries. Saved over three years = $58.6 million

“Having a classroom teacher to teach algebra right now is more important than some oil industry tax break that ended up getting done 20 or 30 years ago that doesn’t even apply anymore,” Gov. Inslee said during a press conference.

Washington is struggling to find qualified teachers and substitutes, according to a recent survey by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Association of Washington School Principals. Of those responding, 45-percent say they could not fill all classroom teacher positions with fully certified teachers who met job qualifications.

Retirements, hiring freezes and economic uncertainties that have discouraged students from choosing a teaching career, and new teacher burnout are cited as reasons why. Research shows half of beginning teachers opt out of the profession in the first five years, many blame low pay and a lack of support. To address that, the governor’s plan allots $5 million for mentors.

The minimum teacher salary would be raised by $4,300 starting next school year. That increase is in addition to the 4.8% cost-of-living adjustment already worked into the current budget. Teachers with more experience, along with administrative and classified staff, would also get a raise of at least one-percent.

This proposal is only one part of the changes Gov. Inslee would like to make to the state’s current two-year $38 billion budget.  

Washington brought in another $245 million in new revenue since the budget passed, but the Governor says costs have gone up. Separate from the teacher salary plan, his proposal includes $700 million in additional spending to pay for increased Medicaid caseloads, urgent mental health care needs, and to cover the costs of fighting last summer’s wildfires. One million acres and hundreds of homes burned in what’s considered the worst fire season in state history, costing Washington nearly $180 million.

For mental health care, Governor Inslee proposes spending an additional $137 million, both in state and federal money. The money would be spent on new programs, hiring more doctors and nurses at state psychiatric hospitals, and community-based housing and recovery services.

“We know we have to do more for mental health in this state. We have urgent short-term needs, but we also need to take a long view on how to build a stronger mental health system,” Gov. Inslee said.

Governor Inslee’s supplemental budget sources that addition $700 million from fund transfers from the state’s Budget Stabilization Account, which would leave close to $1 billion remaining in reserves.

Republicans quickly responded to the Governor’s proposal. Senate Budget Chair Andy Hill sent an email saying it does not balance over four years. “Unfortunately, as has become a yearly tradition, the governor continues to offer plenty of ways to spend taxpayer dollars, but fails to provide a sustainable way to pay for it,” wrote Sen. Hill.

In the House, Republican budget writer Rep. Bruce Chandler wrote, “The 2015-17 biennial budget was signed into law less than six months ago. Significant policy additions – outside of emergency caseload adjustments – are better suited for the deliberation and scrutiny of a 105-day session during budget-writing years.”

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Bill Bryant

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant criticizes Gov. Inslee’s 2016 supplemental budget proposal.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant appeared on the steps of the capitol to say while Washington does need to do more to recruit and retain teachers, it should be done in the existing budget. “This is the governor who said he would not do anything that would take the state in the wrong direction if elected, and that passing new taxes would take the state in the wrong direction, and yet for four out of four years he has continued to propose new taxes,” said Bryant.

When asked about critics who say he’s proposing “new taxes,” the governor argued this is a “modest” and “reasonable” proposal. “Our tax code is infested with the barnacles that are encrusted on our ship of state of these loopholes that corporate lobbyists have come down here year after year, decade after decade, and they have carved out these special little deals for their special little interest, and they never get reviewed. Even though the industry changes hugely and the needs of our state change hugely, they just remain,” said Gov. Inslee. “We have to realize as the needs of our state change and the industries change, this is the best way to finance the education of our children.”

The governor did receive support from House Democratic Majority Leader Representative Pat Sullivan. In a written statement he said, “The governor has given us a good starting point for discussion. While some legislators may have other ideas on how we reach these goals, his priorities are on target.”

The governor’s budget adjustment suggestions will be considered when the 2016 legislature convenes for a 60-day session starting January 11th.

To read the supplemental budget proposal and highlights: http://www.ofm.wa.gov/budget16/highlights/default.asp

Watch the Governor’s news conference here: http://hosted.invintusmedia.com/?clientID=9375922947&eventID=2015120001