Governor Gregoire announced this morning that current TVW President (and former UW Regent) Cindy Zehnder, will replace current chief of staff Tom Fitzsimmons who announced his resignation earlier this week. Zehnder is a very familiar face in Olympia, having previously served as Chief Clerk in the House of Representatives and a deputy commissioner at the Department of Employment Security.
Zehnder has two degrees from the University of Washington and has served as head of TVW since 2003. She will assume her new duties on October 1.
The Governor’s office announced this afternoon that Tom Fitzsimmons, her chief of staff since taking office in January 2005 will step down. Fitzsimmons has decided to resign his position after serving in the position for the past two and a half years.
Fitzsimmons also served as Governor Gary Locke’s chief of staff for the last 18 months of his administration. He previously served as Director of the Department of Ecology. No word from the Governor’s office on a replacement for Fitzsimmons though they did announce that he will stay on through the transition of the new appointee.
The September 2007 revenue forecast for Washington State was released today in Olympia and general fund tax collections are projected to be $282 million higher than predicted this past June.
Dr. Chang Mook Sohn, the state’s chief revenue forecaster, said that although economic and revenue growth is slowing, Washington State has yet to feel the full effects of the national housing slowdown (which has already impacted a number of eastern states including Virginia, Florida and Rhode Island). He did caution that the risk of a major national economic downturn is higher now than it has been in several years.
Dr. Sohn also indicated that Washington’s aerospace and other export industries are benefiting from a strong global economy and favorable currency rates. Since the first quarter of 2005, Washington exports have increased by more than $8 billion or 109 percent.
With the additional forecasted revenue, the state’s budget surplus has grown to more than $1.5 billion. This includes $1.1 billion in unobligated reserves and $431 million in a protected Rainy Day Fund if voters approve the measure creating the fund at the November general election.
Governor Gregoire announced this past Monday the appointment of Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Scott Carson to the Washington State University (WSU) Board of Regents. Carson, a Federal Way resident, graduated from WSU with a B.A. in Business Administration. He received his M.B.A. from the University of Washington.
Carson is President and Chief Executive Officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and Executive Vice President of The Boeing Company. He has served on the Board of Governors for the WSU Foundation as well as several WSU academic department advisory boards.
Some of you may already know that Carolyn Busch, the current chief of staff of the State Senate Democratic Caucus will be joining the UW Office of Planning and Budgeting on October 1 as a policy analyst, in part, to help support the Office of External Affairs including the Office of State Relations.
This morning Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown announced that Rich Nafziger, currently the Chief Clerk of the State House of Representatives will replace Carolyn as Senate Democratic Caucus staff director. In addition to his four years of experience as Chief Clerk, Rich has also worked as a policy advisor to the Governor as well as for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. He is also a member of the Olympia School Board.
Seattle Times chief political reporter David Postman reports in his blog this morning that the State Supreme Court has unanimously rejected a challenge to Tim Eyman’s latest anti-tax initiative. The court ruled against the Service Employees International Union and Futurewise who had argued that Initiative 960 should be kept off the November 2007 general election ballot because its requirement for a supermajority vote of the legislature on tax increase measures would be a defacto change in the state Constitution which is not permitted through the Initiative process.
As we discussed in the blog in July, I-960 is referred to as the “Taxpayer Protection Initiative.” It would require a two thirds vote of the legislature or voter approval to enact any tax increase; ensure a public vote on any tax increase enacted with an emergency clause, and require the issuance of press releases by the Governor’s budget office on any proposed legislation which would increase taxes.
The Office of Financial Management (OFM) has recently released a potential fiscal impact statement for I-960. OFM estimates that the initiative could cost up to $1.8 million annually from requirements to hold statewide advisory votes on legislatively enacted tax increases, preparation of 10-year cost projections for all proposed tax and fee increase proposals and notification of legislators and the public about any proposed revenue legislation.
Tell me if these higher education issues sound familiar?
- Lowest production of baccalaureate degrees in the nation at the same time it has the highest post-secondary education credentials in the country.
- Insufficient public funding for research.
- Mission creep among comprehensive institutions and two year schools.
- Lack of consistent accountability measures to assess higher education performance.
- Tuition that is either too high (student perspective) or too low (institutional perspective) and not enough financial aid.
While you might recognize these as challenges currently facing the state of Washington, they are actually drawn from a recent comprehensive study of British Columbia’s higher education system. Known in the province as Campus 2020, the report which was released this past April represents the first comprehensive look at B.C. higher education in 45 years.
Similar to Washington Learns (although it focuses only on the higher education system), Campus 2020 makes more than 50 separate recommendations for improving post secondary education and establishes several ambitious targets for the year 2020 including having B.C. achieve the highest level of participation in higher education per capita in Canada.
So far, reaction from the higher education and political communities has been mostly positive. As you might expect, success will eventually come down to how much additional funding the province can commit to the effort.
State Rep. Jim McIntire (D-Seattle) who represents the 46th district in Seattle and also teaches part-time at the University of Washington announced Tuesday that he will give up his seat to make a run for State Treasurer in 2008. Three-term incumbant Mike Murphy has decided to retire when his term ends next year and McIntire is the first Democrat to announce his candidacy for the office. McIntire has served in the House since 1998 and most recently was chairman of the House Finance Committee. He lost his chairmanship of that panel last session.
McIntire has already received endorsements from Speaker Frank Chopp, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and former Governor Booth Gardner. Treasurer Mike Murphy, a Democrat, has endorsed his Deputy Allan Martin who is running as a Republican.
Here’s a story from Wednesday’s Olympian newspaper titled “Professor Begins Race for State Treasurer.”
Sen. Erik Poulsen (D-Seattle), the chairman of the Senate Water, Energy and Telecommunications Committee announced this afternoon that he will be resigning his seat in the Senate effective October 1st to become the government affairs director for the Washington Public Utility Districts Association.
Poulsen, who’s district encompasses West Seattle, Burien and Vashon Island was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 1994 where he served three terms. He has been in the Senate since 2002 and was just re-elected last November. There is no indication yet of who would be appointed to fill his unexpired term, although his two House seatmates, Rep. Eileen Cody and Rep. Joe McDermott are potential candidates.