Tag Archives: Majority Coalition

Fix Hirst ruling while work toward McCleary agreement continues

By Laudan Espinoza | Published on February 10, 2017

It obviously has not been easy for lawmakers to come up with legislation that fixes the constitutional issue about school levies raised in the McCleary ruling, treats students and taxpayers in 295 diverse districts equitably and responds to long-standing compensation concerns from teachers and district officials. If it was, the Education Equality Act passed by the Senate more than a week ago wouldn’t still be all by itself on the negotiating table.

Fortunately, another Supreme Court decision looming over our state – the Hirst ruling, from October – is easier to fix than McCleary. There’s no good reason why we can’t have an agreement in place as soon as the end of February.

To put it simply, Hirst complicates the process of permitting a residential water well, and complications mean more cost – tens of thousands of dollars more, potentially, which discourages people from buying land, and property owners from building or selling. Besides derailing the dreams of families all around our state, the ruling means less activity for local lenders and the real-estate and construction sectors.

I remember how a dozen years ago, without warning, the real-estate and construction sectors got hot and began pouring money into the state treasury. In contrast, there’s been ample warning about the chilling effect Hirst is having in those areas of our economy, and what it means for state revenues.

Our children are still being schooled while work on McCleary proceeds, and whatever agreement we reach won’t have an effect on the current school year anyway. Hirst is different, because fewer homes are being built and fewer property transactions are occurring while the Legislature works on a response. The economic damage has already begun, especially in rural Washington.

I know of two bills in each legislative chamber that would address Hirst. One House bill and one Senate bill have bipartisan sponsorship – and in my opinion, represent the straighter path to a solution. The bipartisan Senate bill has already won committee support, while the House committee may push both of its measures ahead.

Not many issues hit all 39 counties in the gut the way Hirst has, and a legislative fix could start bringing relief immediately. It could, and should, be the first major bill to come out of this session.

Our K-12 plan will be out soon, then we can get this job done

By Laudan Espinoza | Published on January 18, 2017

This week Republican legislative leaders had their first meeting of the session with statehouse reporters. As expected the press corps asked first about education funding – including, when will they see a plan from Republicans to fully fund our K-12 schools?

A freelance writer wondered whether the plan would come in a week or two, or would we “wait until April,” meaning late in the session. The April reference struck me as something I would expect from certain Democrats, not a reporter who is supposed to be objective and professional – so I barked at him, which was out of character.

What I should have said, being a longtime Green Bay Packers fan, was something like the line famously used by Aaron Rodgers, the Pack’s quarterback, when questioned a couple years ago about his team’s production.

“Relax. We’re going to be OK,” Rodgers said. His team, 1-2 at the time, went on to win 11 of its remaining 13 games.

My answer should have been more like this: Our plan will be ready soon — sooner than later. It’s going to be OK. We will get this job done.

Democrat lawmakers put some big-spending numbers and costly concepts on paper via the recently concluded Joint Education Funding Task Force. Some have used that to take we-did-our-homework-you-didn’t shots at Republicans. But completing the homework is not the same as passing the test. When our Senate majority puts its plan on the table, I want it to be a fully baked plan that is ready to pass the test, meaning win a majority vote.

If I wanted to fire back at Democrats, I would remind them how our situation is largely of their party’s making. Democrats controlled the state budget for the better part of 30 years before our Senate Majority Coalition Caucus began leading the Senate in 2013. Their spending choices, which favored non-education things over schools by a 2-1 ratio, created the conditions that led to the 2012 McCleary decision. The MCC-led Senate has flipped that, devoting new revenue to education at a rate of more than 3-1. We have restored K-12 to its rightful place in the budget.

I would also note how, in 2013 and 2015, the governor blocked the Legislature’s request to collect K-12 compensation data. We needed it to understand, in dollars and cents, what “full funding” of education really means. Only because of the education-funding task force do we finally have that information.

Instead, I’ll simply say that Republicans aren’t about to leave schools in the lurch. But we want a solution that lasts indefinitely, and we recognize that the Legislature really has just one chance to get it right.

As I said to the reporters, our plan will be ready when it’s ready. Let me say here that it will be ready very soon.

It’s going to be OK. We’re going to get this done.