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. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C-SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Photo Courtesy: Silvia Buoniconti / Northwest News Network

“Heartbreaking” and “Preventable.” That’s how the mother of an Army helicopter pilot describes the midair crash that killed her son and three others last December. It happened during a nighttime training exercise at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord. A report released this week finds that commanders knew about radar and radio limitations in the training area where the crash happened. But apparently those communication gaps went unresolved – despite other near misses.

Courtesy Brown's office / Northwest News Network

One of the most powerful members of the Washington state legislature won’t seek re-election this year. Senate Democratic Leader Lisa Brown made her surprise announcement Thursday at the Capitol. But she didn’t rule out a future run for statewide office.

Photo credit: Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire has a message for both leading candidates to replace her next year. The state will need to find a new, dedicated source of funding for education. The Democrat made her comments Wednesday at a ceremony to sign a newly rebalanced state budget.

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The burgeoning roll-your-own cigarette industry in Washington is preparing to do legal battle against the state. Governor Chris Gregoire is expected to sign into law Wednesday a new tax on do-it-yourself smokes. That will likely trigger a lawsuit.

Photo credit: Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Pilot negligence - not a mechanical failure- led to a deadly midair crash last December of two Army helicopters from Joint Base Lewis-McChord . But poor communication and moonlight might also have been factors in the nighttime accident. Correspondent Austin Jenkins has details on an internal investigation released Monday.

Photo courtesy of US Army

For the first time, the U.S. Army is confirming it was a midair collision that brought down two helicopters last December at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The results of an internal investigation into the crash that killed four pilots was released Monday. It blames pilot error, not a mechanical failure.

Photo credit: Austin Jenkins

Combat brigades at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord will soon get a new layer of supervision. That announcement from the Secretary of the Army comes nearly two months after a Washington-based soldier allegedly killed 17 Afghan civilians.

Photo Credit: Tom Banse

Backers of last year’s initiative to privatize liquor sales in Washington said the new law would avoid a raft of new corner booze outlets. But in this week’s auction of state run liquor stores, mini-mart and gas station owners won a piece of the action.

A fight over unwanted sexual behavior may have led to the apparent murder of a patient at Washington’s Western State Hospital. Prosecutors have not yet filed charges in connection with the death last Friday.

Photo credit: Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Lobbyists have been pounding down the doors of Washington state lawmakers for the last several months. But now that the legislature has adjourned, the roles have suddenly reversed. Just ask lobbyist Nick Federici who advocates for human services organizations.

Nick Federici: “It is a little bit ironic that in a week’s time they went from ‘oh my God I don’t want to talk to you ever again’ to ‘oh, by the way, could you send me a check?’”

Photo credit: Wikimedia userPujanak / Wikimedia Commons

A man some call the “father” of Washington’s solar industry faces a state ethics complaint. Former Washington State University employee Mike Nelson is accused of using his state position to help a solar company win an important state certification. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports Nelson then went to work for the company.

For liberal activists in Washington, it has become the Holy Grail of tax breaks. We’re talking about a deduction banks can claim on some mortgages. Last week, the Washington legislature voted to end this tax exemption for large, out-of-state banks. But now some on the left are calling it a “hollow” victory.

Photo credit: Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – It was a dramatic night at the Washington state capitol as lawmakers missed a midnight deadline to rebalance the state budget. That forced Governor Chris Gregoire to declare yet another overtime session. Just a short while later lawmakers wrapped up their work and adjourned.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington lawmakers missed a midnight deadline Tuesday night to rebalance the state budget. But they didn’t go home. Instead, Governor Chris Gregoire called yet another overtime session. At this hour, lawmakers are still voting on a final budget deal. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins has the latest.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Marathon negotiations over state spending continued Tuesday in Olympia. This is the last day of the 30 day overtime legislative session. Lawmakers are up against a midnight deadline to complete their unfinished business. Governor Chris Gregoire gave this short status update as she passed through the senate wings.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – It’s the final day of Washington’s 30-day special session. But still no deal on a plan to rebalance the state budget and pass a series of government reform measures. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports closed door talks broke up late Monday night.

A weary Governor Chris Gregoire held a news conference just before midnight.

Gregoire: “We’ve made progress over 11 hours, but we’re not done and everybody’s still working.”’

Photo credit: wikiuserJay8g / Wikimedia commons

Tuesday to rebalance the state budget. That’s when the clock runs out on the 30-day overtime session. Legislative negotiators huddled behind closed doors for several hours Monday with the governor.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – The three Washington Senate Democrats who broke from their caucus last month to vote with Republicans face renewed criticism from their fellow Democrats. At issue is whether to link a series of government reforms to a plan to rebalance the state budget.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington House Democrats have a new plan to rebalance the state budget and go home. The proposed spending blueprint unveiled Wednesday abandons a controversial delayed payment to school districts. But it would also leave less cash-on-hand in case of an emergency. Majority Leader Pat Sullivan says the House hopes to use the budget to kick start stalled negotiations.

Photo credit: WSDOT/Flickr" / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A Republican takeover of the Washington state senate last month could prove costly. A longtime lawyer for the Senate Republican caucus is now demanding $1.75 million in damages. He says to muster enough votes to control the senate, Republicans lifted sanctions against a senator who created a hostile work environment.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Governor Chris Gregoire’s deadline for a bipartisan budget deal has come and gone. Lawmakers Tuesday failed to agree on a plan to rebalance the state budget and implement so called government reforms.

Now, House Democrats say they will pass their own budget in hopes of breaking the logjam.

Photo credit: Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Republican candidate for governor Rob McKenna is injecting himself into the ongoing turmoil over how to rebalance the state budget. At a news conference , McKenna went after Democratic Speaker of the House Frank Chopp.

Photo credit: Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Nearly 4,000 Northwest-based soldiers are about to deploy for nine months to Afghanistan. The Army’s 2nd Stryker Brigade received a formal send off Friday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma. The departure comes amid continuing fallout from the case of suspected Afghan shooter Sgt. Robert Bales.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Governor Chris Gregoire says the next 48 hours are critical to reaching a deal to rebalance the state budget. The Democrat resumed signing legislation into law Thursday after holding dozens of bills hostage.

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Here come the bugs. It was a warm winter in the southern half of Idaho, in Montana and points east. That means insects are emerging earlier and will have longer breeding seasons.

Democratic candidate for Washington governor Jay Inslee has reversed course and now says he will participate in a June debate sponsored by the Association of Washington Business, the state's chamber of commerce. Public Radio Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins will moderate the event.

Photo credit: Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Just like the rest of us, police officers use cell phones and smart phones. But in an emergency, they still rely on old-fashioned two-way radios to communicate. In Washington, the State Patrol is about to upgrade that radio system to meet new federal standards. The $26 million contract went to Motorola with no opportunity for other companies to bid. Now the project is under fierce criticism from a tech-savvy Washington state lawmaker.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Unless Congress acts, 2011 will be the last year Washington residents were able to deduct sales tax from their federal income tax returns. Governor Chris Gregoire signed onto a letter Tuesday asking Congressional leaders to reauthorize the deduction for 2012.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – The debate over debates continues in the Washington governor’s race. Republican Rob McKenna announced Monday that he will commit to 15 joint appearances with Democrat Jay Inslee. Meanwhile, Inslee made it official: he will not participate in one debate that’s become a tradition in Washington.

Phot credit: Ryan Hallock / U.S. ARMY

Seventeen counts of murder. Six counts of assault and attempted murder. Those are the charges filed Friday against 38 year old Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. He’s the Washington-based soldier accused of killing 9 Afghan children and 8 adults in a massacre earlier this month. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. Correspondent Austin Jenkins explains the next step is an Article 32 hearing.

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