Public Safety Pensions

This year we faced a daunting problem: balancing a budget with a precipitous decline in revenue due to the ongoing recession. We made cuts to everything, including healthcare for children, public education, mental health care, and compensation for employees.

As a new budget chairman, I entered the job with a handful of principles:

  1. Nobody was getting a raise. It’s hard to argue that we should pay anyone more at the same time we are eliminating the kinds of programs we are.
  2. We were going to fund all of our obligations completely. We can no longer pretend that the economy is going to come roaring back next week, next month, or whenever and we’ll be able to make it up. This includes debt service, pension contributions, and all the other long-term commitments we are responsible for as a state.
  3. We would be thoughtful about the cuts, trying not to make reductions in places where it would cost us more money in the near future or cause irreparable damage.

Many people have written in about the level of contributions to the LEOFF (Law Enforcement and Fire Fighter) pension plans and the decisions we’re making here, and I wanted to take a moment to clarify our decision path. As they do every two years, the LEOFF board recommended contribution rates into the various plans they cover. The Legislature makes the final decision, as we do on all plans. The end result of this long email is that we funded the pensions at the rate the LEOFF board recommended. For those interested in detail, here’s the sequence of decisions:

  1. Continue reading “Public Safety Pensions”

520 Update

The Eastside project (405 to the landing in Medina) is underway. They are removing some trees now and expect to continue to do work for the next few years. If you go to the project website you can sign up for newsletters which will alert you to closures and other useful bits of knowledge.

I’ll continue to track the progress of this project.


The vendor we hired to implement the tolling on the 520 bridge did not do a very good job, and WSDOT wisely delayed turning on the collection system until they could get the kinks worked out. I am disappointed in the outcome, but pleased that they delayed until it works. I’m also a little frustrated about how the tolling system was designed, but I don’t get to be in charge of everything in the world, which is probably fortunate.

You will need to have a “Good To Go” tag on your car to pay the lowest toll. The following website has info on how to do this:

I would expect the tolling to start up in June or July, and it takes a couple of weeks to get the tags, so you may want to get started now. I would prefer to not have tolls on the bridge, but there is no other way we can pay for a new bridge.

520 Lid design at 84th

There is finally an agreed-upon design for the 84th St. interchange with 520. This has been remarkably contentions and WSDOT has gone to great lengths to come up with something that works, or at least that people think will work.