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Gregoire requests federal disaster funds

Gov. Chris Gregoire today asked President Barack Obama to declare a federal disaster area in nine Washington counties impacted by flooding, mudslides and avalanches caused by severe weather earlier this month.

Gregoire requested federal assistance for Clark, King, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston and Wahkiakum counties. Damage surveys are continuing this week and the results are expected to add counties to the disaster declaration request.

January 2009

PSE completes $250 million refinance

Puget Sound Energy, the utility subsidiary of Puget Energy, today announced it has successfully completed a $250 million issuance of first mortgage bonds. The bonds were placed with more than 35 institutional investors, have a term of seven years and carry a 6.75 percent coupon.

Net proceeds from the issue will be used primarily to repay outstanding short-term debt incurred to partially fund the utility's capital expenditures, including the $240 million Mint Farm Power Generating Facility, a natural gas-fired power plant in Longview, Wash. purchased by PSE in December 2008 using previously secured bank financing.

"Successful completion of this bond offering with its relatively low coupon in very difficult capital markets demonstrates positive market reaction to the pending close of our merger with Puget Holdings LLC, a group of long-term infrastructure investors," said Stephen P. Reynolds, chairman, president and CEO of Puget Energy and PSE. "The upgrade of PSE's corporate credit rating to 'BBB' by Standard & Poor's, immediately after we announced the merger closing date, also improved the bond credit ratings and enabled an attractive interest rate on the debt."

January 2009

Washington sees sharp drop in job openings

Job vacancies in Washington last fall were 32 percent fewer than just six months earlier, according to the latest job-vacancy report from the Employment Security Department. The survey showed that Washington companies were attempting to fill an estimated 50,593 open positions in the fall of 2008, compared to 74,744 open positions in the spring of the same year.  

The Fall Washington Job Vacancy Survey report is based on a survey taken in October that measured job openings that firms across Washington were actively attempting to fill. The survey is taken twice a year, in the spring and fall. 

January 2009

Olympian publisher steps down

The staff changes at The Olympian newspaper continued yesterday after publisher and president John Winn Miller announced plans to resign. He has headed the newspaper for more than three years. His last day will be Jan. 30.

He told the newspaper's staff that it was a personal decision that had nothing to do with the change in ownership from Knight Ridder to McClatchy two years ago or the recent round of layoffs and resignations that also included the newspaper's editor.

January 2009

House Republicans urge salary freeze

In a letter to the state's Salary Commission, House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt urged the board yesterday not to approve pay increases for state lawmakers this year. The request to forego salary increases for lawmakers was supported unanimously by the 35 members of the House Republican Caucus.

DeBolt asked the commission to weigh the state's economic circumstances and the plight of Washington families when considering whether to boost salaries for elected officials.

January 2009

Unemployment rate jumped in December

Washington's unemployment rate increased to 7.1 percent in December 2008, up from November's rate of 6.4 percent, according to the state Employment Security Department. The state lost an estimated 22,200 non-agricultural jobs, seasonally adjusted.

Industries with the most job growth included information, with 300 new jobs, aerospace, which added 400, and education and health services, up 300. The largest declines were in manufacturing, which cut 3,500 jobs, professional and business services, down 7,900, administrative and support services, down 5,600, construction, down 4,200, and transportation, trade and utilities, which lost 3,300 jobs.

January 2009

Wage freeze bill proposed

Senate Bill 5362 has been proposed and would change the formula the state uses to set its minimum wage.

The bill would set Washington's minimum wage at its current $8.55 an hour and eliminate the requirement that the rate be raised each year. On Jan. 1, Washington's minimum wage automatically rose from $8.07 to $8.55 an hour - the highest rate in the nation. Small businesses struggling to stay afloat and keep from cutting jobs during these tough economic times requested the bill.

January 2009

Russell's Global CIO sees upturn ahead

Russell Investments' Chief Investment Officer Peter Gunning expects equity markets to signal a mid-year economic turnaround before it's officially determined by economic statistics. He said that by the time the U.S. recession was officially declared in December, major U.S. stock indexes already showed staggering year-to-date declines.

"Russell's analysis and models point to a slow and perhaps subdued economic recovery starting later in 2009, with the markets likely to recover before the U.S. economy," said Gunning. "Global economies will recover later than the U.S. economy."

January 2009

Gig Harbor resident at center of class action suit

A Gig Harbor home owner has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against Trex Co., claiming the nation's largest manufacturer of wood-alternative decking is selling flawed products, and fails to live up to its guarantee when its products fail.

Mark Okano claims his two-year old deck made entirely from Trex product began degrading, cracking and rotting in July 2008, but the company refuses to reimburse him for the costs associated with repairing the deck -- specifically the cost of labor to remove the bad boards and install new ones.

January 2009

South Sound flooding causes growth pains for nonprofit

The startup nonprofit Help 4 Hard Times has gone from toddler to teenager in a matter of months as it has had to manage the demands of its surrounding community following two floods in the last year.

January 2009
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