After attending the state economic forecast meeting last Friday and hearing about the trouble ahead, I needed some good news. Thankfully it came in the way of the Governor's comments yesterday to the Associated Press. As reported in the News Tribune:
Gregoire, describing herself as an optimist, said she’s looking at the budget gap and faltering economy as an opportunity to fundamentally rethink the role of state government in Washington’s economic health.
Without going into specifics, Gregoire said she hopes to identify government functions and programs that might be better handled in the private sector or the nonprofit arena.
“This should not be simply a budget-cutting exercise. We should be thinking about, how do we grow our economy, how do we create jobs, and what reforms we can put in place,” Gregoire said. “Government is really going to have to get back to the absolute, essential basics.”
Count the Washington Policy Center ready to help bring about this fundamental reform to state government.
One idea is to begin a “base closing” process for state programs and agencies to determine which ones can be consolidated or eliminated. We discuss this reform and many others in our Policy Guide for Washington State.
More good news has come in the way of the state's editorial boards, reminding the Governor that they expect her to deliver on her no tax or fee increase campaign pledge. Here is a sampling:
"The people of this state are suffering right now, and a tax increase to pay for programs to address some of these issues is the worst possible idea. Government should not punish Washington families by piling on more fees and taxes that make it harder to make ends meet. Thankfully, Gregoire vowed during the campaign that she is also not in favor of any new taxes. We remind her now of that promise, and promise on our end to do what we can to hold her to her word." - Bellingham Herald (Much work to be done in state; taxes not an option)
"Her biggest challenge will not be Republicans in the Legislature who desire to block and impede her efforts, but fellow Democrats who will clamor to raise taxes to spare pet programs from the budget ax. Gregoire the candidate said she would not raise taxes. How hard will she fight to live up to that promise? Raising taxes is the last thing we need in this dour economy." - Seattle Times (Re-elected Gov. Christine Gregoire has tough work ahead)
In all the midst of the election fallout stories there is not much discussion about helping entrepreneurs. It all seems to be aimed at bailing out large and struggling industries.
Granted, a $50 billion bailout of the Detroit auto makers is sure to grab bigger headlines. But if the president-elect and national and state policymakers in 2009 want to ensure long-term economic growth they should focus their efforts to make sure entrepreneurs can benefit from an environment conducive with innovation and economic growth.
Small businesses make up a mammoth piece of the economy and now that the campaigning is over, as they say, it's time to start governing.
Mark Cuban, he of start-up billionaire and sports nut fame, suggests president-elect Obama should make sure to include small business owners or start-up types in the policy process. BusinessWeek magazine polled a dozen heavy hitters in entrepreneurship for their suggestions. And over at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, Bret Swanson makes a plea to resist throwing out capitalism to help entrepreneurs.
One of the outcomes of the Washington Learns report is the work of the Basic Education Task Force, chaired by Dan Grimm, former Treasurer of the State of Washington. This Task Force is considering a number of proposals for changing the definition of basic education provided by the state. The Task Force will soon begin deliberating these proposals, with the goal of producing a final report for the January 2009 legislative session.
Chairman Grimm has just submitted his proposal to the Task Force. You can read his proposal here:
The key structural reforms suggested by the Grimm report include:
1)Redefine “basic education” to require “accountability for student outcomes,” which introduces to the “basic education” definition a new idea: that public education must be accountable for student performance. However, the report does state that there is a limit to what the state can do as academic achievement must "ultimately be the responsibility of students and their families."
2)Fund two additional hours of instruction, which would require substantial new funding from the state.
3)Transfer from 295 school districts to the state the responsibility over collective bargaining with the teachers union, which Grimm believes would increase the likelihood of establishing different pay for different labor markets, different pay for teachers with different duties and qualifications such as math and science, and incentive compensation based on student academic achievement and retention in high school.
4)Eliminate the state teacher salary schedule, which rewards teachers on the basis of degrees attained and years worked.Research shows that this “time and credits” grid is not correlated to student achievement.
5)Repeal Initiatives 732 (teacher COLA increases) and 728 (smaller class size and other reforms)
6)Repeal continuing contract protections for principals, and making continuing contract protections for teachers subject to collective bargaining
7)Repeal teacher certification laws, and allow prospective teachersto be tested instead for academic and subject matter competency.Grimm’s report also suggests that all certification standards based on peer review be eliminated (such as the National Board Professional Teaching Standard certification funded by the Legislature to provide bonuses to teachers), and that the state should not be involved in the accreditation and management of teacher preparation programs.
This proposal is in line with research which shows that student achievement is correlated to the academic achievement of teachers, and not to the certification status of the teacher. See Professor Kane’s study:“Photo Finish: Certification does not guarantee a winner.”
8)Create two new high school diplomas to provide students with the incentive to stay in school.Students who meet the requirements of a new, rigorous diploma, the Certificate of Academic Mastery, would be guaranteed admission to one of the state’s six four-year state colleges and universities.
9)Repeal of Time, Responsibility and Incentive pay by the local districts.
10)Giving the Governor authority to target assistance to promote innovation and address diverse district needs.
11)More transparency and accountability over expenditure data and student data reporting.
12) Limit use of levy funds, repeal of levy lids and levy equalization.
The combined total of state, local and federal funds spent on public education in Washington exceeds $9 billion a year, an increase of 28% over the past four years. Taxpayers therefore provide approximately $9500 per student to the public school system. This translates to over $180,000 per classroom. Unfortunately, however, less than 59 cents of every dollar actually reaches the classroom.
Grimm states that improving student performance will require increased funding. Grimm also says that improving student performance will also require structural reforms, "in the absence of which any infusion of new funding will leave in place the deficiencies of the current system and create another cycle of inequitable and inadequate education opportunities inimical to improved student performance."
Structural reforms should precede funding increases.
Our research shows that placing an effective teacher in every classroom is more important than any other factor in improving student learning, including smaller class sizes.Principals have little ability in Washington State to place effective teachers in every classroom, or to act as instructional leaders, as most do not hire staff or have control over their budgets.Instead of allowing our principals to lead, laws and other restrictions reduce our potential leaders to building and conflict managers.
Grimm’s proposal offers several bold steps which would give local school principals additional tools to attract and place effective teachers in every classroom.
One idea to give local principals yet another tool would be to allow funding to follow the child to the school of his or her choice, as this “weighted-student formula” method of funding (now implemented in Hawaii, Nevada and New Jersey) requires schools to compete for students and to fund their budgets by successfully attracting students and their families.Accountability under this system is built in:schools which do not attract sufficient numbers of students are subject to staff changes by the district.
You do not need to look very
far to see what the government's newest response will be to stabilize the economic volatility in our country: public works spending, particularly in the
area of transportation infrastructure.
Similar to Roosevelt's New
Deal programs in the 1930s, this approach would be another significant
expansion of government....and on the heels of the federal bailout, which by
some estimates, is the largest intrusion of government in the private market in
Highlighted by the
Minneapolis bridge collapse and the growing negative economic impacts caused by
traffic congestion, there is no doubt that this country has a large
transportation infrastructure deficit. So disproportionate spending increases
in transportation infrastructure might be welcome by some unusual allies and
may avoid the "socialist" accusations that usually follow such large
scale market manipulations.
Here is a great article
written by Ken Orski that discusses the background on the current issues
surrounding transportation infrastructure spending.
Support for Increased
Public Infrastructure Spending is Growing
The push to
increase investment in public infrastructure is gaining momentum. It is stoked
by the prospect of another "stimulus" (or "economic
recovery") package, a portion of which would be dedicated to roads,
bridges, transit and other public infrastructure. Supporting the initiative is
an influential coalition of trade associations, public interest groups and
labor unions including the American Road and Transportation Builders
Association (ARTBA), Associated General Contractors of America, National
Association of Manufacturers, American Public Transit Association (APTA),
American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), U.S. Conference of Mayors, and a
host of local governments.
observers question the effectiveness of infrastructure spending as a short-term
economic stimulus on the grounds that public works projects cannot be launched
quickly enough, proponents, such as AASHTO’s John Horsley, argue that
there are many projects that could be advanced to construction within 90 days
if additional funds were made available. In a briefing paper prepared for an
October 29 congressional hearing on public infrastructure (see below), the
staff of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure cites a
January 2008 AASHTO survey of State Departments of Transportation that
identified 3,071 "ready-to-go" highway and bridge projects at a total
cost of $17.9 billion. A further 559 "ready-to-go" transit projects
at a total cost of $8.03 billion have been identified in an October 2008 survey
by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
Hearing on Public Infrastructure Investment
a second stimulus package was plainly on display at an October 29 hearing of
the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The hearing was convened
at the request of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to lay the groundwork for
legislative action in the next Congress.
gave the Committee ample ammunition why an economic recovery program with a
strong focus on infrastructure investments would be desirable. New Jersey
Governor Jon Corzine (D-NJ) and former Michigan Governor John Engler, now
president of the National Association of Manufacturers emphasized that the
initiative is needed not just as a short-term stimulus to create jobs and
assist in national economic recovery but also as part of a needed long term
strategy to repair and expand the nation’s infrastructure. Witnesses provided
many specific examples of ready-to-go projects. Lest the hearing be perceived
just as a forum for special interests to plead for increased funding for their
favorite local pork barrel projects, Committee Chairman James Oberstar stressed
the need for applicants to prioritize their wishlists based on objective standards
of need. He elicited a promise from Governor Corzine that he would
"strictly adhere" to doing just that.
Research and Policy Director of the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute,
was the only witness to address the issue of financing. He testified that, in
his view, the recovery package should be deficit financed. "While deficits
should not be ignored," he said, "deficit reduction must take a back
seat to short-term stimulus." Allowing a temporary increase in the
national debt next year to levels no higher than what we averaged in the 1990s
(46.1% of GDP) would allow room for about $900 billion in additional debt"
Irons testified. Infrastructure investments should be seen as an insurance
policy against a prolonged downturn, he added, to counter the argument about
the time lags encountered in construction contracts
support for increased spending on transportation infrastructure came from state
transportation officials. Meeting on October 20 in Hartford CT, the American Association
of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) called for an overall
$545 billion investment in surface transportation infrastructure over a period
of the next five years (2010-2015). The recommended allocation would provide
$375 billion for highways, $93 billion for transit, $42 billion for freight
improvements and $35 billion for intercity passenger rail. Increased federal
funding would be coupled with national performance standards set to achieve
for the stimulus bill is not unanimous
a stimulus bill and increased infrastructure spending is not unanimous. In
another congressional hearing, held concurrently by the House Ways and Means
Committee, witnesses offered a more skeptical view. Governor Mark Sanford
(R-SC) opened his testimony with a ringing plea not to approve the contemplated
stimulus package, arguing that the money "may in fact further infect our
economy with unnecessary government influence and unintended fiscal
consequences." "Common sense voices from both sides of the aisle are
raising red flags about our national deficit," he warned. Government
spending has grown 57 percent this decade alone and if the stimulus passage is
passed, this year’s budget could top $1 trillion — adding to the over $10
trillion national debt, Sanford said. State debt across the country has also
increased by 95 percent over the past decade because of "unsustainable
spending growth," he added.
skeptical witness, economist Alan Viard of the American Enterprise Institute,
argued that, while in theory, increasing infrastructure spending could reduce
the severity of a recession, in practice timing lags make it difficult to
deliver the stimulus at the time it is needed. He cited the Congressional
Budget Office and a long list of economists in support of his conclusion.
contracting lead times was also the reason why the White House and
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters have come out in opposition to the
stimulus package, with Peters citing past experience with time lags encountered
in construction contracting. On Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader John
Boechner (R-Ohio) added to the skeptical opinion, saying that he would reject
any bill that includes "hundreds of billions in new pork-barrel spending
masquerading as economic stimulus."
transportation analysts at the Heritage Foundation pointedly reminded people
that infrastructure provided and operated by the private sector, such as
pipelines, electric power plants, transmission grids and telecommunication
networks do not seem to suffer from an "investment deficit. "Our
infrastructure is deficient only where it relies on the public sector for
maintenance and rehabilitation," Utt wrote in an October 23 Heritage
Foundation commentary entitled "Is America’s Infrastructure ‘Crisis’ Just
Another Crisis for Socialism?". According to Utt, the solution is not to
pour more billions of dollars into a public works program but to begin shifting
more responsibility for the maintenance and operation of infrastructure from
the public to the private sector. It’s an observation that may have
considerable merit, but nonetheless is full of irony in these days of what is
becoming the largest expansion of the federal government’s role in the economy
since the 1930s.
Investment in Infrastructure
transportation stakeholders are not the only ones supporting greater investment
in infrastructure. That also seems to be the sentiment of private investors.
Infrastructure is one of the "rare bright spots in a tumultous
market" wrote editors of Financial News. Several executives of
private equity firms whom we encountered at a recent New York meeting,
age of highly leveraged deals may be over, they said, there are still billions
of dollars in domestic and foreign infrastructure funds waiting to be invested
in transportation facilities. Toll roads appeal to long-term investors because
they generate strong demand even in times of slower economic growth and produce
steady and predictable cash flow relatively unaffected by economic downturns.
And long-term investors such as pension funds and insurance companies require
stable, income-oriented investments to match their long-term liabilities and
payout obligations. Given the current volatility of the equities market, the
low interest rates of the government bond market and the risky nature of
investments in corporate credit instruments and real estate, infrastructure is
now seen as a "safe haven" for long-term investors, a senior bank
official told us. The reported decline in toll revenue in recent months is seen
as a passing phenomenon tied to a recessionary economy. In the long run, toll
roads have lost none of their revenue earning potential.
consequence to the prospects for private investment in infrastructure, the
private equity executives warned, is the nature and extent of the expected
government oversight to be placed upon private toll concessions. If the capital
market should conclude that legal restrictions and regulatory barriers placed on
such concessions are too onerous and burdensome, investors (especially foreign
investors) may decide that investing in U.S. infrastructure is not worth the
trouble and they will turn instead to infrastructure investment opportunities
abroad. Such a decision, in the judgment of the private equity executives,
would be most unfortunate for it would deprive fiscally strapped state and
local governments of a much needed source of capital to modernize and expand
increased spending on public infrastructure began before the current push for a
stimulus package. We called attention to them already one year ago ("The
Infrastructure Financing Debate is Gaining Momentum", NewsBrief, November
2007) and again in March of this year ("The Problem of Infrastructure
Deficit is Attracting Growing Attention, NewsBrief No.9, March 2008). The
infrastructure debate was triggered by the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, an
incident that jolted the public into realizing that we have allowed our
transportation infrastructure to seriously deteriorate through decades of
under-investing. But the earlier debate always assumed that additional spending
on infrastructure would require new sources of funding and a major financial
contribution by the states. The stimulus advocates, on the other hand, are now
pushing for deficit financing and a 100 percent federal share.
point of view prevails will depend upon internal discussions among fiscal
conservatives and liberals within the Democratic party, since the Democrats are
virtually assured control of Congress, probably with expanded majorities. On
Capitol Hill, conservative Blue Dog Democrats will argue that, with this year’s
deficit potentially approaching $1 trillion, now is not the time to abandon the
pay-as-you-go rules which hold that any spending increases must be offset by
equivalent new revenues (or spending cuts). The liberals, on the other hand
will argue that, with a deepening recession and growing unemployment, containing
the deficit is the last thing on their mind. That posture was epitomized by a
remark by House and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (quoted in the Wall Street
Journal, October 30): "For God’s sake," he said, "don’t ask me
where the money will come from. I’m going to the same place [Secretary of the
Treasury] Paulson went."
NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE BANK
the stimulus package, the concept of a National Infrastructure Bank (NIB)
figures prominently among the infrastructure financing initiatives to be
considered in the next Congress. The purpose of the bank would be to provide
financial assistance to major public infrastructure projects "not
adequately served by current financing mechanisms." The concept has been
endorsed by presidential candidate Barack Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi as
well as by a number of private and public sector figures such as Pennsylvania
Governor Ed Rendell (D-PA), former Treasury secretary Larry Summers and Senate
Banking Committee chairman Christopher Dodd (D-CT).
The Bank, as
initially proposed by Senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Chuck Hagel in their
bill, S.1926, has been resurrected in a fresh and more elaborate form by
Everett Ehrlich and Felix Rohatyn in a recent article in The New York Review
of Books ("A New Bank to Save Our Infrastructure," October 9,
2008). Both Ehrlich and Rohatyn had been key figures in the CSIS Commission on
Public Infrastructure that had produced the original 2007 report recommending
the National Infrastructure Bank.
In its new
version, the National Infrastructure Bank would replace the various modal
programs as the source of capital for highways, mass transit, airports and
other public infrastructure. Rather than receiving grants through pre-set
federal formulas and congressional earmarks, states and other levels of
government would come to the Bank with investment proposals they wished to
pursue. Unlike NASTRAC, the entity proposed by the National Transportation
Policy and Revenue Commission, the bank would not act on a top-down comprehensive
plan for the nation’s infrastructure. Proposals for infrastructure investment
would continue to come up from state and local level. What would change
is the way projects are selected for funding. The Bank would rate projects and
set funding priorities using a set of objective criteria reflecting regional or
national significance, productivity and economic benefit.
have proposed that the Bank’s capital would come from the funds now dedicated
to existing infrastructure programs — about $60 billion annually.
Alternatively, the Bank could obtain its own capital by issuing long-term bonds
backed by its loan portfolio. The Bank could also rebundle its loans and sell
them to investors in the capital markets (not unlike Fannie Mae’s subprime home
mortgage securities but presumably backed by sounder, income-producing
Congress could be persuaded to adopt an Infrastructure Bank along the lines
proposed by Messrs Ehrlich-Rohatyn is an open question. Asking Congress to cede
control over the federal public works programs, surrender its power to make
infrastructure investment decisions, and abolish all modal distinctions seems
far-fetched. Along with some members of the Transportation Infrastructure
Financing Commission, we think a more promising (and more congressionally
acceptable) model for the Bank would be the already existing Transportation
Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). The TIFIA program, which has
been in existence since 1998, provides federal credit assistance to
transportation projects of substantial regional or national significance.
Projects must be eligible for federal assistance under Title 23 and generate a
dedicated stream of revenue from user fees. TIFIA assistance can take the form
of secured loans for construction and permanent financing (for a term of up to
35 years); loan guarantees to institutional lenders making loans for projects;
and lines of credit that may be drawn upon to supplement project revenues.
Endowing the proposed National Infrastructure
Bank with TIFIA-like authority while expanding and liberalizing TIFIA’s
conditions (e.g. by adding Title 49 (transit) to the category of eligible
projects, substantially increasing its capitalization, and lifting the ceiling
on credit assistance (currently at 33 percent of project costs) would
accomplish all the purposes of the Dodd-Hagel bill while preserving the
existing balance of power between federal and state government.
The Puget Sound Partnership released today a draft copy of its Action Agenda.The Agenda, according to the Partnership, will serve as a roadmap to help prioritize cleanup projects and protection plans for the Puget Sound.
The public is invited to participate in a public comment period, which begings today and will close on November 20, 2008. The Partnership is required to deliver a finalized Agenda to the legislator by December 1, 2008.
Also released today is a draft of the Partnership's Finance Plan outlining how the Partnership proposes to pay for the Agenda action items. The Partnership is estimating that it will cost, at a minimum, $200 million to $300 million to implement the Agenda in the 2009 - 11 biennium.
Of particular interest to me is the one measure that passed in Missouri. Johnson explains that the Missouri measure:
"set out to gradually increase the use of renewable energy to 15% by 2021, mandating slow-but-steady yearly increases. That’s the kind of measure that power companies and electricity grid operators like, because it gives them time to absorb the new power into the system without disruptions."
With the prospect of a projected $3.2 billion budget problem growing even larger after this month's revenue forecast, some in Olympia are already talking about tax increases - this only two days removed from the election. According to the Seattle Times (Gregoire's next big test: balancing budget without raising taxes):
. . . Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, didn't rule out the prospect of tax or fee increases.
Brown also said lawmakers could look at targeted taxes or fees, or consider ending certain tax exemptions.
"If you look at a tax exemption and you decide you need to close it or limit it somehow, is that raising a tax? Some of it comes down to definitions," she said.
Gregoire was pretty explicit during the campaign when pressed on whether she'd support increasing taxes or fees next year. She said no and reaffirmed the vow Wednesday.
"Now is not the time you put taxes on people," she said, adding that during the campaign she has met people across the state who are suffering from the economic problems that have shaken the nation.
Still, some Democrats see wiggle room for the governor.
Paul Berendt, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party, said he thinks Gregoire and lawmakers could put together a tax package that would help balance the budget and support new programs — and send it to voters.
That would allow Gregoire to propose additional spending without signing a tax increase.
The fact that voters agreed to raise sales taxes for a $17.9 billion Sound Transit light-rail expansion suggests that approach could work, Berendt said.
When asked recently if she'd support sending a tax increase to voters, Gregoire said, "I will leave that to my colleagues in the Legislature. I will forever maintain that the voters ought to be able to decide that. ... I wouldn't be involved in it. It would bypass me. It would not be something that the governor would sign on to or sign off on."
While sending a tax increase proposal to voters would be consistent with the Governor's comments that any tax increase should receive voter-approval, how would a tax increase referendum provide any "wiggle room" on her repeated campaign statements reaffirmed in the Times article that now is not the time to raise taxes on Washingtonians?
Based on her comments above, any doubt now that Sen. Brown's lawsuit to overturn the voter-approved 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases has more to do with the ability to easily raise taxes than the Senator let on?
The vast majority of
independent academic and federal government studies on the
relationship between infrastructure spending and economic activity
have found that the impact is very modest and long in coming.
High-speed rail proposals are high cost, high-risk megaprojects that
promise little or no congestion relief, energy savings, or other
environmental benefits. Taxpayers and politicians should be wary of any
transportation projects that cannot be paid for out of user fees.
While some in Washington continue to flirt with the theory that if only the state had an income tax we'd never have another budget problem, our neighbor to the south is discussing repealing its income taxes and moving instead to sales taxes.
Oregon's state government system relies heavily on income taxes, with about 90 percent of its general fund and lottery revenues coming from individual income taxes. That system is volatile because income tax receipts drop during economic downturns, leaving the state short of money to pay for education and other services.
Long-term options listed by the task force include:
Eliminating the state's personal income tax and imposing an 8.5 percent sales tax with exemptions for items such as shelter and in-home food. The group notes this approach would reduce net income for most households without offsetting provisions . . . The task force began meeting a year ago. While it does not favor any long-term approach over another, it does recommend some short-term changes, including having Oregonians vote on placing the state's rainy day fund, created by the 2007 Legislature, in the Oregon Constitution and increasing the fund's cap.
As demonstrated by Oregon's experience with income tax receipts, there is no recession proof tax structure. Policy makers should not focus tax reform discussions around raising more revenue but instead should ensure the tax system is based on sound principles of taxation.
This is why the state's notorious B&O tax is ripe for reform or replacement - it fails the principles of sound taxation on many levels as identified by WPC's Carl Gipson in this four-part series:
The Olympian reports this morning that state Senator Rodney Tom (D-Bellevue) is proposing a constitutional amendment to allow the governor to appoint the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The article quotes from the Senator's press release:
The goals of GMAP were also placed into statute by the Legislature in 2005 meaning regardless of who wins the election some version of the program will continue. RCW 43.17.385 reads:
(1) Each state agency shall, within available funds, develop and implement a quality management, accountability, and performance system to improve the public services it provides.
(2) Each agency shall ensure that managers and staff at all levels, including those who directly deliver services, are engaged in the system and shall provide managers and staff with the training necessary for successful implementation.
(3) Each agency shall, within available funds, ensure that its quality management, accountability, and performance system:
(a) Uses strategic business planning to establish goals, objectives, and activities consistent with the priorities of government, as provided in statute;
(b) Engages stakeholders and customers in establishing service requirements and improving service delivery systems;
(c) Includes clear, relevant, and !
easy-to-understand measures for each activity;
(d) Gathers, monitors, and analyzes activity data;
(e) Uses the data to evaluate the effectiveness of programs to manage process performance, improve efficiency, and reduce costs;
(f) Establishes performance goals and expectations for employees that reflect the organization's objectives; and provides for regular assessments of employee performance;
(g) Uses activity measures to report progress toward agency objectives to the agency director at least quarterly;
(h) Where performance is not meeting intended objectives, holds regular problem-solving sessions to develop and implement a plan for addressing gaps; and
(i) Allocates resources based on strategies to improve performance.
>(4) Each agency shall conduct a yearly assessment of its qual!
ity management, accountability, and performance system.
(5) State agencies whose chief executives are appointed by the governor shall report to the governor on agency performance at least quarterly. The reports shall be included on the agencies', the governor's, and the office of financial management's web sites.
(6) The governor shall report annually to citizens on the performance of state agency programs. The governor's report shall include:
(a) Progress made toward the priorities of government as a result of agency activities; and
(b) Improvements in agency quality management systems, fiscal efficiency, process efficiency, asset management, personnel management, statutory and regulatory compliance, and management of technology systems.
(7) Each state agency shall integrate efforts made under this section with other management, accountability, a!
nd performance systems undertaken under executive order or other authority.
So why should you care?
If properly utilized GMAP has the potential to help move the budget discussion away from spending outputs and instead focusing the debate on purchasing performance outcomes. This means that if we ever get a meaningful spending limit, a tag team effort of GMAP, Performance Audits, and Priorities of Government budgeting (POG) could lay the groundwork for a sustainable performance based budget focused on purchasing outcomes for Washington citizens instead of the state budget being used as a laundry list of spending goodies for special interest.
Unfortunately this potential hasn't been realized yet.
Newspapers should not allow the heat of a campaign to distort the reality of public education in Washington State. It is erroneous to use SAT scores as an indicator that the system is educating our kids, as only 53% of Washington's high school graduates took this test in 2007.
Absolute standards for student achievement statewide are difficult to find. The WASL is a subjective test whose underlying standards are still undergoing revision, fifteen years after passage of the Education Reform Act. The math portion of the WASL has been cancelled. Other data suggest that the WASL inflates student achievement: student performance on the "nation's report card" or National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that in 2007 only 34% of 8th graders achieved proficiency in reading and only 36% of 8th graders achieved proficiency in math. For more on this point, see my Chapter 5 in the Washington State Policy Guide: http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/policyguide/index.html
Better indicators for the performance of our K-12 schools are remediation rates. Fully 52 percent of students entering community or technical colleges have to take remedial math, English or reading courses to learn what they should have learned before they got to college. 37 percent of students entering our two-year and four-year universities must take remedial math or English courses. Drop-out rates from high school and college provide us with the most telling criticism of our K-12 education: out of 100 ninth-graders, only 14 manage to graduate from college within 10 years of entering high school.
Deciding how to vote in this race is difficult enough, but at least we should have accurate information to help us make this important decision.
From the RAMP blog, here is a good update on the proposed container tax being considered studied:
There have been some significant developments in the container tax
debate in Washington State this week. As some may recall, the
legislature considered a bill to impose a $50 per twenty-foot
equivalent unit tax in 2007 (most containers passing through
Washington's ports are 2 TEUs in length). That bill was amended to
create a study of potential diversionary impacts of a container tax, as
well as other potential alternatives for funding freight
infrastructure. The Legislature retained Cambridge Systematics to
conduct the study.
Earlier this year, Cambridge's
subcontractor, Dr. Robert Leachman, validated industry's arguments that
significant diversion would result if a tax were adopted—a 30 percent
drop in volumes with a $30/TEU tax. What would this mean for Washington
state? A loss of 9,415 jobs and $58.5 million in lost wages.
week Cambridge concluded that even on major freight corridors, such as
a completed SR-167, passenger vehicles, and not freight, received the
majority of the benefits from each of these projects. They also found
that heavy trucks, a subset of which carry containers, received the
least amount of benefit.
Responding to this information, key
legislators on the state transportation committees have said it is
difficult to provide the linkage necessary to justify a container tax,
especially given the potential diversionary impacts.
A Seattle Times article today addresses the gubernatorial candidates' stances on minimum wage -- particularly the merits of a "stair-step training wage." One candidate favors the idea, another one opposes any cuts to the minimum wage no matter the experience level of the employee. (WPC Vice President for Research Paul Guppy blogged on the minimum wage yesterday)
At a recent gubernatorial debate, a small business owner asked the candidates about the stair-step training wage. She spoke with the Times reporter after the debate.
In a phone interview this week, Mercy said her theaters employ 100
people, mostly teenagers earning minimum wage. She said she was
interested in a training wage for the first 30 days or so for new teen
workers, who often arrive for their first job with few skills.
"These kids come here and they don't know diddly squat," Mercy said,
yet they get paid the same as other teens who have already been trained.
But still, some proponents of the minimum wage (or "living wage") continue to assert that the minimum wage should not be tinkered with -- unless it's raising the wage. In other words, raising the cost to the employer. So, what happens when the cost to the employer becomes more than the benefit of the good or service being provided by the employee?
Mercy said the profit margins of theaters are already thin, and because
of the increases in the minimum wage, she is now considering whether
she can raise ticket or concession prices without losing customers.
Mercy said she may have to consider layoffs or hiring fewer teens in
the next year.
Either we all pay more in the end or the employee now has no income.
For those who want to know the election results on Election Night, here is some advice, go to bed early. Washington has more of an "Election Month" than "Election Day" due to the way we conduct our vote-by-mail elections. Highlighting this fact, the Associated Press wrote yesterday (Election day postmark means late results in Wash):
In Washington state, the election won't be over on Election Night.
The state's vote-by-mail system ensures that any close race will be unsettled for days afterward. That's because ballots count if they're mailed as late as midnight on Election Day, a system that usually leaves about half of the vote outstanding at the end of the night, keeping politicians and the public in a state of limbo . . .
Washington state is one of more than two dozen states that allow voters to cast absentee ballots without an excuse like illness, disability or travel. Numerous other states, like Florida, allow early voting at poll sites, along with absentee ballots. Most no-excuse absentee states, including Oregon, which is 100 percent vote-by-mail, require ballots to be in by the time the polls close on Election Day, if not earlier.
Washington is one of just a handful of states that require a postmark by Election Day or the day before, allowing ballots to arrive days later. But of those states, only Washington has a vast majority of mail voters who create a crush of ballots for county auditors to count after Election Night.
This doesn't have to be the case. Having lived in Oregon and participated in that state's 100% vote-by-mail process it was shocking to move to Washington and learn election results weren't hours from being known but in some cases weeks.