Remember Me? -- With all the focus on the race between Dino Rossi and Chris Gregoire, Gov. Gary Locke's final weeks on the job he held for eight years are going by relatively quietly. Except, of course, that he and his wife Mona welcomed their third baby, a girl, Madeline Lee, on the Saturday after the election.
But when pundits start to assess Locke's tenure, one area he hopes they don't overlook is agriculture. Locke made a number of trips overseas devoted to selling Washington's crops, and he believes they paid off.
"We've been enormously successful in helping sell Washington ag to other countries," he told The Inlander just before the election. "In fact, I'm just back from China and Mexico. We used to sell no potatoes in Mexico, but now it's our fourth-largest export market." Other big new markets have been for cherries to Taiwan and hops to Japan.
As for whether he'll miss the excitement, he says he'll find ways to stay involved in the issues he's been working on as governor -- after Madeline gets a little older.
"For a while," says Locke, "I'll still be in the middle of changing diapers and midnight feedings."
Freedom Ain't Free -- Now that the presidential election has come and gone, the issue of how much the war in Iraq is costing has been rearing its ugly head again. Around election time, many were stunned to learn it was costing taxpayers $4 billion a month. But in a detailed analysis, United Press International found the truth was really more like $6 billion a month. That's $200 million a day (and you can do the math down to how much it cost while you read this story).
Taking It Past the Limit -- With costs like the war mounting and the government's debt limit fast approaching, Congress recently was faced with a tough call: Cut the budget to reflect fiscal reality or change the fiscal reality. By now, you know Republican leaders raised the debt limit by $800 billion. No need to worry, however, since you'll recall in the president's 2002 State of the Union speech when he said, "Our budget will run a deficit that will be small and short-term."
Slipping One In -- And in the appropriations bill coming out right now, almost lost amid all those zeroes was a tiny provision that raised huge red flags. According to the little law, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and his staff would have a new power: to look at any American's tax return. Members of both parties were outraged, and GOP leaders claimed it was a misunderstanding and that the provision would be removed from later versions of the bill. As of press time on Monday, however, it had not been removed.