Friday, February 11, 2011

Local Washington State News

Here are a few stories from around the local (Washington State) area from the Seattle PI and the Seattle Times (occasionally I throw on a link to Crosscut, a kind of funky Seattle news site).

WA State resident may have to pay higher licensing fees if they own what is deemed as a “gas guzzler”. State legislators are floating ideas that could possibly increase the price drivers pay at the pump, or to register a vehicle, especially if that vehicle is larger. The extra taxes would go to support already heavily subsidized mass transit in King and Pierce counties.

One thing about Washington State is while most here might be liberal, they hate taxes. An increase in taxes requires either a super majority in the state legislature or approval by a majority of the voters. Pierce county voters have already rejected higher taxes to pay for mass transit.

84% of respondents say no driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. Washington and New Mexico are the only states that allow illegals to obtain driver’s licenses.

Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA, Redmonds) urges caution about steps against the EPA being considered by the Republican control House, who have spoken about eliminating, defunding, or defanging the EPA. Reichert, who is known as RINO in some conservative circles, is a strong supporter of increasing wilderness sizes, locking up land from future development and resource extraction.  Washington State Republicans have a history of siding with Democrats on environmental issues. Details in the story.

Senator Maria Cantwell thinks it will take $18M to win a third term against as yet to be determined Republican opponent. That is a staggering sum, in my opinion. There is a rant against Republican efforts to curb the power of the EPA, calling them the “Dirty Air” lobby. The columnist doesn’t bother to mention that the EPA has stepped way beyond it original charter. He also sounds off on the changes in political funding; only highlighting the money received by Republican politicians. Does the columnist really believe only the Republicans benefited from last year’s SOTUS decision?

The end of the federal tax credit ($8K) was blamed for the sharp decline in existing home sales in the final quarter of 2010 as compared to 2009. On the bright side 2010 fourth quarter sales were up from the previous quarter.  As an additional note, median price for homes was off 1.6% between 2009 to 2010 and 20.4% from 2007.

34%, that is the figure being tossed about as the number of people in the local area (focused on Seattle) that are upside down on their mortgages. This does not surprise me. The Seattle area housing market (Olympia to Everett) was ON FIRE from about 2000 to 2007. I am sure there were lots of folks hoping to cash in on rapidly rising home values. Partnered with this increase were mostly likely folks getting into home they could not afford without some fancy lending practices backed by Fannie and Freddie. In my neighborhood I know of at least three people within an easy stone’s throw who received mortgages they shouldn’t have received under “normal” lending practices. They lost those homes.

Transportation officials in the Washington state Department of Transportation would like a piece of the $53B President Obama has requested for high-speed rail. For those not located in the PACNW, Amtrak runs a 4x daily from Vancouver BC to Eugene, running on existing, privately owned (BNSF) tracks. The WA DOT wants some of that money to continue to make improvements on the line so speeds can be increased to 90MPH and sidings can be built to deconflict with freight traffic.

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