Austin Jenkins

Olympia Correspondent

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia–based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. He regularly files stories for NPR News. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin was a freelance general assignment reporter at KING–TV, the NBC affiliate in Seattle. He also worked as a freelance education reporter for KPLU–FM, the Tacoma–based NPR station. Austin spent 2001 in Washington, D.C. as a Knight Foundation/American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow. Austin has also worked as a television reporter in Portland, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; Casper, Wyoming; and Bozeman, Montana. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and has a B.A. in Government from Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Over the years Austin has won numerous professional awards for his reporting. He lives in Olympia with his wife Jennifer Huntley and their two children.

Read Austin's blog, "The Washington Ledge: Dispatches From Olympia."

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Budget Deal
3:15 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Washington Governor Announces Budget Deal, No Shutdown

Christina Salerno TVW

Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 5:19 pm

The Washington legislature hopes to deliver a budget to Governor Jay Inslee by the end of business Friday. This after the House and Senate reached a handshake deal on a $33.6 billion state budget for the next two years. The agreement – after weeks of negotiations – should avert a government shutdown on Monday.

The official announcement came from Governor Inslee who was flanked by legislative leaders. “We are happy," he said. "And I know we are all relieved, to report to you that lawmakers have reached agreement on an operating budget for the next biennium.”

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Washington Gas Tax
5:51 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Gas Tax Package Fall Short In Washington House

Theresa Murray Flickr

Originally published on Wed June 26, 2013 5:38 pm

A proposal to raise Washington’s gas tax by 10.5 cents to fund transportation projects has failed in the state House. Supporters Wednesday came up one vote short. But they vow to try again.

The transportation revenue package would raise $10 billion for maintenance and preservation of existing roads and to fund new projects. The proposal calls for a 6 cent gas tax increase this summer followed by another 4.5 cent increase next July.

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Legislative Trips
4:52 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Lawmaker Travel: Was A Trip To Turkey Legislative Business?

Washington State Senator Pam Roach appears on Azerbaijani television during a trip in May to strengthen relations between the U.S. and Azerbaijan.
Credit Pam Roach

It can be one of the perks of elected office: free trips to foreign lands. Recently, several Washington state lawmakers were invited on a 10-day tour of Turkey and Azerbaijan. This particular overseas excursion has raised questions in the Capitol about when a foreign trip is legitimate legislative business and when it’s a junket.

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Washington Budget
4:30 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

Inslee Reports Budget 'Breakthroughs' As Layoff Notices Go Out

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Mon June 24, 2013 4:27 pm

Washington Governor Jay Inslee says a budget deal in Olympia is “imminent” – even as state workers start to receive layoff notices. At a news conference Monday afternoon, the Democrat reported significant breakthroughs in budget negotiations.

A shutdown of state government is now one week away. That’s why temporary layoff notices are going out to state employees. That’s a requirement of labor contracts. Governor Inslee says he feels “enormous frustration” there wasn’t a budget deal in time to avert the notices.

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Washington Budget
4:22 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

As Washington Budget Negotiations Heat Up, Shutdown Details Emerge

Northwest News Network

Originally published on Thu June 20, 2013 3:45 pm

The push is on to get a final budget deal in Olympia. Top legislative leaders met Thursday to see if they could bridge their final differences. Meanwhile, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of what a July 1 government shutdown would look like if there’s no agreement.

The governor’s office says without a new budget, 34 state agencies and commissions would completely shut down on July 1st. Another 24 would partially shutter. On the closure list: state parks, the lottery, and some mental health services.

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Outdoor Marijuana Grows
5:35 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

Washington Liquor Control Staff: Allow Outdoor Marijuana Grows

Medical marijuana patients rallied at the Washington capitol in opposition to giving the Liquor Control Board jurisdiction over medical cannabis.
Credit NWNews

Licensed outdoor marijuana grows may be allowed in Washington after all. Staff at the state’s Liquor Control Board said Wednesday they’ve been persuaded by potential growers to consider alternatives to energy-intensive indoor pot production. Meanwhile, medical marijuana patients rallied at the state capitol in opposition possible new restrictions on them.

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Washington Budget
4:00 pm
Tue June 18, 2013

Big Revenue Boost Could Break Budget Logjam In Olympia

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Tue June 18, 2013 2:49 pm

There’s suddenly a flurry of talk in Olympia about a quick resolution to the weeks-long budget stalemate. The change in rhetoric follows Tuesday’s positive revenue and caseload forecasts.

Budget writers will now have an additional $300 million-plus to help bridge their differences. They can thank a recovering housing market and improved consumer confidence.

The House and Senate have been locked in a partisan fight over whether to raise additional revenues by closing some tax exemptions. This new money could now fill that gap.

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Revenue Forecast
5:20 pm
Mon June 17, 2013

Washington Lawmakers Hope For Positive Revenue Forecast

As budget negotiations drag on, an empty hallway and a “No Meetings Scheduled” message board greet visitors to the House office building in Olympia.
Credit Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Protracted budget talks in Olympia could see a breakthrough after Tuesday’s release of an updated revenue forecast. That’s the quarterly report that projects how much money will flow into state tax coffers in the coming months.

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Estate Tax
4:02 pm
Fri June 14, 2013

Washington Estate Tax Refunds Halted After Midnight Bill Signing

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Fri June 14, 2013 3:16 pm

There were dramatic developments in Olympia overnight. Governor Jay Inslee held a midnight bill signing to amend Washington’s estate tax. The move means the Department of Revenue will not begin to issue refund checks Friday morning to the heirs of some multi-million dollar estates.

The state of Washington was about to embark on a months-long process of refunding an estimated $140 million to more than 100 estates. This was the result of a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year. The money would have come out of a fund dedicated to public schools.

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Washington Revenue Debate
7:45 am
Fri June 14, 2013

Washington Revenue Debate Not Over With Estate Tax “Fix”

The checks will not be in the mail Friday morning. Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed legislation late Thursday night to halt the issuance of refunds to the heirs of some multi-million dollar estates. At a midnight bill signing, Inslee – a Democrat – praised the legislature for voting to fund schools in lieu of refunds for wealthy families. But he also said he wants lawmakers to find additional sources of revenue for the next budget.

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