The boys and girls in Olympia

One thing I've always liked about Washington state is that this is an area that generally goes its own way despite national trends and fads.

A good friend of mine, a physician and poet, loved and hated the adopted town where I was born, raised and started working for newspapers.

He said once that because of Cincinnati's overwhelmingly Germanic tinge (the town boasts the biggest Octoberfest in the world outside of Munich), there were only three things a contrarian could do there on the banks of the Ohio River: be crushed in rebellion, conform or leave.

Seattle has always offered other options. Even now, as slackerdom becomes harder and harder to maintain in this time of job cuts and national policies that willfully turn the country's back on its own poor, deserving and otherwise, there are still nooks and crannies here for the artistic and just plain lazy to get a fingernail grip on, in their attempts to survive without knuckling under to the mindless pursuit of more, more, more stuff, which has become the American Way for many endlessly dissatisfied folks.

Lately, I've seen things which make me worry that our gently sodden contrariness is being overrun by dumbed-down national trends in our seeming acceptance of everything from Donald Trump, who is declaring bankruptcy but is still represented in our national and local media as a business success, to Hummers, those Hitlerian staff cars on wheels that have no business sailing through our crosswalks against the light. The people who buy into them are one of the reasons we are fighting for oil rights, oops, I mean freedom, in Iraq.

But all in all, Washington state, anchored by Seattle (and of course Capitol Hill), often bucks the ignoble national tendencies.

For example, as our national Congress and Senate in the District of Columbia fills up with right-wingers mislabeled as conservatives (conservatives conserve - they don't run countries into deep dark holes of debt for empire building), Washington state's Legislature is once again controlled by allegedly center-straddling Democrats, who won back the Senate majority and also enlarged their majority in the state House.

What does this mean to the average Joe and Joette walking up Broadway?

For starters, it should mean that the recently increased state minimum wage, $7.35 now, will stay put. Business groups claim paying unskilled workers $300 a week will bust everybody, but only someone who doesn't have to live on pennies in a paper-dollar culture could support cutting poverty wages down to penury wages.

Especially when services for the poor like Basic Health have been greatly reduced recently.

In fact, despite rising Medicaid costs, Democrats in Olympia are talking about taking a look at somehow re-strengthening Basic Health, and possibly increasing its coverage for tykes and toddlers.

Education is another hot-button issue. Currently, the state ranks in the bottom 20 percent (42nd) in spending per pupil, according to one recent national study, so reading, writing and numbers will again be a priority for both parties.

According to a report in The Seattle Times, the Democrats are expected to lobby for a simple-majority voter-approval mechanism for future school levies.

And while our self-proclaimed war president seems to turn a blinder and blinder eye on the environment, state legislators are going to talk about adopting stricter auto-emission standards, and about cleaning up the state's once-pristine waterways, including Puget Sound.

All of this must be paid for, though, and there are fears that the democratic majority will try and raise taxes.

Whatever your personal politics, you can make book on the fact that Olympia will be filled with weeping and the gnashing of teeth, to biblical proportions, in the next 100 days. More and more virulent debates about money, the lack of it, the need for it and where to get it, will almost definitely dominate this year's three-month session on the southern banks of Puget Sound.

Personally, I'm for the recently raised minimum wage, and definitely for an expansion of Basic Health's coverage, not just for children, but also for the working poor.

And who in their right mind would oppose restoring our state waterways?

I'm not convinced a simple voter-majority clause for school levies is a good idea.

I tend not to write about politicians personally all that often, unless they do something so egregious it is impossible to ignore them. But I think there isn't enough debate over the state's budget, in our bars, cocktail parties and community newspapers.

After all, it's where you live, and it's your money.

Any thoughts?

Freelance writer Dennis Wilken can be reached c/o editor@capitolhill

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