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New State Employee Retirement Plan Moves Forward + Other Briefs in Your Northwest News Roundup

Oregon legislators block tax increases
(Oregon legislative website)

New State Worker Retirement Plan Offered

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington state Senate has approved a bill that would create a new retirement plan option for government employees.

Lawmakers approved the measure with a 25-22 vote, moving to create a 401(k)-style system that workers can use. Republican Sen. Barbara Bailey says the proposal would give workers an option at a time when some want flexibility and portability with their retirement money.

The Senate did approve an amendment that would allow workers to move back into a standard pension plan if they dislike the 401(k)-style option.

Democrats largely opposed the bill, arguing that it wasn’t clear how the measure would impact the existing pension system and saying the proposal should be more thoroughly studied. The measure now goes to the state House, which is controlled by Democrats.

Sunnyside Man Gets Six Years for Death of Toddler

YAKIMA, Wash. — A 21-year-old Sunnyside man was sentenced to six years in prison Wednesday for the death of his girlfriend’s two-year-old son left in his care.

Juan Balverde Lopez was convicted of second-degree manslaughter for the August 2010 death of Benjamin Miron.

The Yakima Herald-Republic reports evidence at the trial suggested Lopez struck the boy in the abdomen in frustration when he wouldn’t go to sleep.

Oregon GOP Legislators Stop Democratic Tax Hikes on Businesses

SALEM, Ore. — Republicans may have defeated Democrats’ first stab at raising taxes on corporations and the rich this week, but that doesn’t mean tax increases are out of the picture.

There’s plenty of time left for a compromise before the June 30 deadline for lawmakers to approve a new state budget, and Republicans say they’re willing to talk.

By demanding tax increases, which require a three-fifths supermajority, Democrats have handed a powerful bargaining chip to the GOP minority. Republicans have named their price. They want steeper cuts to public-employee pensions in exchange for additional revenue.

Republicans were emboldened by the failure of a Democratic effort to raise $275 million in additional revenue. They say Wednesday’s vote shows they can stick together in their effort to secure more aggressive pension cuts.

Oregon Man Jailed After Firebomb Attempt at Former Girlfriends Home

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — A 30-year-old drifter has been arrested on charges he tossed a homemade bomb at a house in Southern Oregon where his girlfriend took refuge after breaking up with him.

Police Chief Ken Lewis says Michael J. Pankey was arrested Wednesday night a few miles outside of Rogue River.

The bomb went off Monday, and Pankey’s girlfriend told police he had threatened to blow up her house or car after their breakup.

Police say the bomb appears to have been a small propane cylinder like those used for camp stoves, filled with gunpowder. No one was injured.

A few minutes after the blast, an officer pulled over Pankey for speeding, but the officer didn’t know he was involved in the explosion and let him go.

His SUV was impounded, though.

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