A buffet of budgets, a bunch of whales and a request for your miles

It’s Day 78. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112

2023 Washington Legislature, Day 78 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, March 27, 2023 — Good Monday afternoon. Hope you’re hungry for budgets.

House Democrats roll out a trifecta of spending plans today. Expect hundreds of pages stuffed with spicy numbers and salty provisos. Everything shows up online at noon.

This edition will be in the can before then so I can’t steer you to the gluten-free portions.

When I get a chance to pore through the spending menus, here are a few questions for which I will be looking for answers.

Will the proposed operating budget be larger than the Senate’s offering?

Will House Democrats shun Gov. Jay Inslee’s housing bond proposal as the Senate did?

Will new taxes or increases in existing ones be on the plate?

Will there be specificity on funding of transportation projects from the Move Ahead package approved last year?

Will capital budget chefs include $7.4 million for Everett’s quest to build a new ballpark for the AquaSox?

Public hearings on the proposed operating and transportation budgets are set for 4 p.m. today. A hearing on the capital budget will be held at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Tracking your mileage

If the state Department of Licensing asked — nicely of course — would you voluntarily tell them how many miles you drive each year?

A House bill motoring through the Senate aims to do that. As envisioned, when you register for your car tabs, you’d write in the current odometer reading. A year later, upon renewing registration for the same vehicle, you’d write in the new reading.

The state agency must ask but no one is required to provide any information. A report would be due in May 2025 on how well it worked, or didn’t work.

Some view this proposal suspiciously. Maybe it’s a stalking horse for an unpopular idea like a road usage charge, they wonder.

Rep. Julio Cortes, a first-term Democrat from Everett, crafted House Bill 1736. He said there’s no hidden motive.

“For me, the more data we have access to the better decisions we are able to make,” he told the Senate Transportation Committee recently. It is not a road usage charge, he said, but the data will help inform any future conversations on that idea or others.

He didn’t convince all his House colleagues. While it passed 53-43, a few Democrats, including Dave Paul and Clyde Shavers of the Snohomish County delegation, opposed it.

The bill was teed up for a vote Monday in the Senate Transportation Committee today.

Whale watch

Good news for fans of Sounders gray whales that hang out each spring in the waters around Everett, Camano Island, and Whidbey Island.

Cascadia Research and Orca Network sent out an email today reporting North Puget Sound gray whales are showing up earlier and staying longer. And there are more of them. Cascadia first documented the North Puget Sound gray whales, or Sounders, in the early 1990s, identifying six different whales coming back annually. In recent years the number of Sounders documented using this area has grown to 20, according to the release.

One whale has been continuously in the area feeding for over a year. Two others arrived in December and early January, the groups reported. At least seven more Sounders have joined them with additional arrivals expected soon.

Might be the kind of day to watch for whales in between bites of a budget.

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