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Originally published May 21, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 21, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Budget bill includes sales-tax deduction

There was good news in the joint House-Senate budget bill last week on the state sales-tax deduction from federal income taxes. There is language in...

Seattle Times Washington bureau

There was good news in the joint House-Senate budget bill last week on the state sales-tax deduction from federal income taxes.

There is language in the bill to make the deduction permanent; Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, and Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, pushed to get that provision. The current temporary sales-tax deduction ends this year. The bill may be passed next Thursday.

And the bipartisan delegation stopped the White House's move to allow the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to raise rates later this year. The Bush budget presented in February would have forced BPA to return surplus revenues to pay off U.S. Treasury bonds, instead of using them to maintain lower electricity prices. But the pending budget bill nixes that.

Baird reintroduced his 2006 bill to prevent insider trading by members of Congress.

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act, will prohibit politicians and their staffers from profiting from nonpublic information they obtain via their official roles about upcoming defense and intelligence contracts.

"Members of Congress and their staffs should not be above the law when it comes to profiting from sensitive information," Baird said. A 2004 report from Georgia State University showed that U.S. senators' investment returns were about 25 percent higher than the typical American's.

Baird's legislation may pass the House under Democratic leadership, but its future in the Senate is uncertain.

More than 100 constituents from the Tacoma area flew to D.C. for Democratic Rep. Adam Smith's annual 9th District Day on May 17.

The group welcomed one of Tacoma's sons, Vice Admiral Eric T. Olson, who is soon to become the chief of the U.S. Special Forces (SOCOM, for Special Operations Command). He will be the first Navy officer placed in charge of a command that includes the Green Berets, Rangers and Delta Force. Smith chairs the House subcommittee on Special Forces.

An Arabic linguist and veteran of submarine tours, Olson talked about SOCOM's role in the Middle East and other hotbeds of terrorism as a combination of direct warfare, interdiction of weapons from outside agitators, and things as basic as handing out food and medical supplies.

Asked by one of Smith's constituents about the status of the search for Osama bin Laden, Olson said the man behind the 9/11 attacks is an important "symbolic target" for the U.S.

He acknowledged concerns that bin Laden may be hiding in western Pakistan, but he added that the U.S. must deal carefully with Pakistan, its ally.

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This week: Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, will reintroduce his bill to restore protections to roadless areas in national forests. The Bush administration repealed the Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule in 2005 to allow road building on 58.5 million acres.

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee, which Rep. Norm Dicks chairs, will begin its work on the competing budgets for the Park Service, the Forest Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. Dicks, D-Bremerton, has been trying to get the administration to find more funds for cleaning up pollution in Puget Sound, but there are big cuts for environmental-related agencies.

Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, voted to add funds to the COPS program, or community-oriented policing. The bill passed 381-34; Reichert's statement said that will put 50,000 more police on the streets. But congressional wrangling over the Justice Department budget, which includes COPS, could change some of the bill's provisions.

The controversy over the Deepwater contract to rebuild the Coast Guard's aging fleet continued. Under pressure by Cantwell and other members, the agency announced it will seek damages from contractors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman for eight failed patrol boats.

The $24 billion contract had been the subject of House and Senate hearings and four negative government audits.

In its May 17 letter May, the Coast Guard said that the flaws in the 123-foot patrol boats, whose hulls were subject to buckling, were due to Lockheed and Northrop's designs.

A spokeswoman for the joint Lockheed-Northrop team said the companies could not comment yet. Cantwell, who chairs the committee that oversees the agency, said in a statement, "Taxpayers should not get stuck with this bill."

Finally, the Washington State Society held its annual D.C. Potlatch dinner, with nearly 1,000 attendees.

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, repeated as master of ceremonies; guests agreed that his jokes have improved.

He made sport of Rep. Doc Hastings' new goatee, saying it was the "staid" Pasco Republican's way to "get his freak on."

Larsen also said that Inslee has decided to expand his list of issues from "global warming" to "global climate change."

Alicia Mundy: 202-662-7457 or amundy@seattletimes.com

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