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Friday morning's headlines

Computer-generated image of Sound Transit's proposed Link light rail route across the I-90 bridge.
Sound Transit
Computer-generated image of Sound Transit's proposed Link light rail route across the I-90 bridge.

Making headlines around the Northwest this morning:


  • Microsoft Raises Could "Get Us Out of the Recession"
  • Opponents Lose Bid to Block I-90 Light Rail Plan
  • Wash. Legislature Passes Marijuana Dispensary Bill
  • U.W. Researcher in Serious Condition After Fall on Mt. Olympus

Economists say unprecedented raises announced by Microsoft yesterday could be just what's needed to help lift the Puget Sound region out of a economic slump.

Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer told all 88,000 of its employees  - about 40,000 of whom live in the region that the company is...

"...making the most significant investment in overall compensation we have ever made...The changes we're rolling out today wil help ensure Microsoft continues to be the place that top talent comes to change the world."

The company wouldn't say how big the pay increases would be but they would be in the form of cash, not stocks - a sticking point with many workers and investors - because Microsoft stock has been largely stagnant the past ten years.

If Microsoft granted a raise of say,  ten percent, Dick Conway, co-publisher of thePuget Sound Economic Forecaster told the Seattle Times:

"This is the kind of boost that we've been looking for to get us out of the recession. Technically the recession ended almost two years ago but in fact we've seen very little employment growth and very little income growth. So this is the kind of thing you hope to se to get the show on the road again.

The raises will not take effect until later this year.


State Supreme Court Says "No" to Foes of Plan to Keep Light Rail Off I-90

The State Supreme Court has shot down a lawsuit brought by Kemper Freeman, and former State Sen. Jim Horn, among others, to stop East Link light-rail from coming across the Interstate 90 bridge.

The  group argued that the state money that would be used to extend light rail can only be used for "highway purposes," and not light rail, because light rail is not a "highway purpose."

The state's high court said "no" in a 7-2 decision.

Figuring out how much Sound Transit might play to lease the center lanes of I-90 for light rail—one of the state actions at the center of this case—"serves a highway purpose," according to the majority.

"Petitioners," the majority added, "ask for a writ prohibiting [the state Department of Transportation] from entering into any agreement that places light rail on the center lanes of I-90. We will not issue such a writ."

The group says it will likely wage a second legal fight, perhaps through lower courts.

Gregoire Legislature Passed Medical Marijuana Bill

Governor Chris Gregoire says she's disappointed the state Legislature has passed a medical marijuana bill despite her warning she would veto any measure that puts state employees at risk of violating federal law.

 The bill approved Thursday would create licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington state. Senate lawmakers adopted changes made by the House and sent the bill to Gregoire.

Gregoire says the measure as passed doesn't address concerns state employees who participate in licensing dispensaries or grow sites could be subject to federal prosecution because marijuana is illegal under federal law.

Supporters note that federal authorities have not gone after state employees in other states that have licensed dispensaries. Gregoire says that doesn't matter.

The Democratic governor says she will review the bill to see if she can pass any of it without jeopardizing state workers.


U.W. Researcher Falls on Mt. Olympus; in Serious Condition

 A 24-year-old man who fell between 200 and 300 feet on Mount Olympus yesterday is in serious condition at a Seattle hospital with an apparent broken arm and head injuries. Authorities say James Menking was a member of a three-person glacier research team from the University of
Washington that was hiking to Blue Glacier when he fell down an avalanche chute yesterday.