The House Finance Committee held a work session yesterday focused on the fiscal health of Washington's cities and counties. Among the presentations lawmakers heard was a pitch from the Washington Association of Counties to provide local governments more flexibility on existing tax sources while providing new tax options. One recommendation in particular of note from the Counties:
The Seattle Times reported on this morning’s horrendous traffic jams, noting politics and policy choices are getting in the way of providing people with congestion relief. Transportation reporter Mike Lindblom noted, “Congestion relief is no longer an official top priority of Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)” as it was in the past. In 2007 lawmakers re-prioritized transportation spending to achieve five goals with transportation money. They added a sixth in 2010.
Union executives have spent $3.5 million promoting Initiative 1351, because they stand to profit by up to $7.4 million a year in new member dues taken from public education budgets. If it passes, they could double their “investment” in the first year.
Nine weeks after classes started, students at Garfield High School in Seattle learned last week that they will be losing one of their teachers.
Administrators at the state’s largest school district, overseen by Board President Sharon Peaslee and six other board members, informed Garfield and five other local schools they planned to take away one of their teachers.
“Survey question to lawmakers and candidates: Would you vote to allow the people of Washington to have the opportunity to vote on a state constitution amendment to require a supermajority vote in the Legislature to raise taxes?
It’s widely assumed that Initiative 1351, the ballot measure that purports to reduce class sizes, will pass by a wide margin. The initiative title has bumper-sticker attractiveness, it faces no organized opposition, and executives at the powerful WEA and other unions are putting $3.5 million of their members’ dues money behind it. (In Washington, teachers must pay the union as a condition of employment.)
Backers of Initiative 1351 are asking voters to support reduced class sizes without providing a way to pay for it. Smaller class sizes without higher taxes – who wouldn’t be for that? As one skeptic quipped, it’s like asking people to vote for puppies and apple pie.
A report released last month by the Reason Foundation ranks Washington as the state with the 42nd best highway performance out of the 50 U.S. states. Just three years ago, the state ranked 24th among other states. Washington received poor marks because “mileage in poor condition (on urban and rural Interstates and rural arterials) increased considerably, despite increased spending (relative to the U.S. average).”