New challenges in new session. Plus: unemployment, SCHIP, and retirement programs

January 13, 2009 | Alex Stone

Lawmakers start session facing a challenging year: Lawmakers convened the 2009 Legislature on Monday, facing a $6 billion deficit that’s only likely to get worse.

Budget woes put lawmakers in grim mood: Welcome to Olympia, on the eve of a $6 billion state budget shortfall. Brown and the state’s other 148 lawmakers on Monday will begin a high-stakes battle over what to cut, what to save, and whether they can persuade a recession-saddled public to support tax increases. The state’s budget woes are fixable, Brown says, but it won’t be easy.

Lawmakers Talk of How to Tackle State Budget Woes: Washington lawmakers returned to the state capital on Monday, charged with fixing a budget gap some think could reach $7 billion in the coming months.

Seattle feels nation’s unemployment pain: The U.S. unemployment rate jumped to its highest level in 16 years last month — 7.2 percent — as the nation lost 524,000 jobs, and the pain is increasingly obvious around the Seattle area as its big employers cut back.

Forecast of short recession looks shaky: It is a sobering reminder of one’s insignificant place in the universe when news that one’s employer and one’s job are likely to evaporate in 60 days counts as no better than the third most significant local economic story of the day.

SCHIPing away at the need for health insurance: When Bill Clinton’s health care proposal was foundering in the summer of 1994, a group of senators suggested that the administration put off trying to get universal coverage and insist instead on insuring all children. The idea was to make, at least, a down payment on reform. | Read

Krugman: Obama’s stimulus plan must do more: Last week President-elect Barack Obama was asked to respond to critics who say that his stimulus plan won’t do enough to help the economy. Obama answered that he wants to hear ideas about “how to spend money efficiently and effectively to jump-start the economy.”

Questions for Arne Duncan: On Tuesday, January 13, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Education Secretary-Designate Arne Duncan. New America’s Education Policy Program has put together a list of 20 policy questions that we hope Senators will ask Duncan tomorrow–including questions about Duncan’s views on early education issues.

Retirement programs require immediate attention: With two wars, a blowup in the Middle East and the prospect of a long and deep recession, President-elect Barack Obama would seem to have enough on his plate. So we were somewhat surprised to hear him say last week that overhauling Social Security and Medicare would be among his first orders of business.

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Posted in Early Learning, Education, Health Care, Retirement Security, Social Security, State Economy, Tax and Budget, Work & Family

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