A simple but crucial to-do list for the state

Less than a month away from Election Day and three months out from the start of the legislative session, it’s not too early to start jotting down the to-do list for state senators and representatives. You can do this on a post-it note:

No. 1. Fully fund education.

No. 2. Fund and pass a transportation package.

No. 3. See Nos. 1 and 2.

Just in case the threat of a contempt-of-court charge from the state Supreme Court isn’t enough motivation, the Washington Roundtable, a public policy organization focused on the state’s business environment, recently published its annual report, Benchmarks for a Better Washington. The benchmarks are a list of measurements that address education, transportation and business, ranking the state against the other 49.

It’s a mixed report card.

In terms of business climate, Washington ranks first in the nation for lowest commercial and industrial electricity rates, up from No. 3 a year ago. And it’s 13th in terms of private sector job creation. The next few steps are a bit of a doozy: It ranks 33rd for business tax burden, 44th for unemployment insurance taxes and 50th for workers’ compensation costs.

Likewise, education and innovation have their highs and lows: The state ranks fifth for number of patents generated, sixth in student math achievement and 18th for student science achievement. But we rank in the bottom half of states for our high school graduation rate (32nd) and the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded per capita (38th).

Washington can’t count itself among leading states in transportation: It’s 36th for road conditions, dropping from 29th last year; 38th for average commute time and 41st for bridge conditions. The last one shouldn’t surprise anyone after the May 23, 2013, collapse of I-5’s bridge over the Skagit River, which was classified as functionally obsolete prior to its collapse. A full 21 percent of all bridges in the state are considered functionally obsolete.

Steven Mullin, Washington Roundtable president, said he’d like to see some legislative action on the other business climate benchmarks, but the real urgency is on education and transportation.

Which brings us back to that post-it note.

The Legislature must find an estimated $2 billion, presumably a mixture of savings and new revenue, to satisfy the state’s chief mandate to fully fund education as outlined in the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.

The Legislature was unable in its 2014 session — truthfully, the Senate was unable — to pass an $8 billion transportation package that included a gas tax and motor vehicle taxes that would have funded major highway improvements and maintenance and transit projects.

Getting both done will require compromise, a willingness by Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, to give on this to get that.

Checking education and transportation off that to-do list should do a lot to start budging those benchmark numbers up and making the state more attractive to businesses that can create and keep jobs here.

Now, after the election, take that post-it note and hand it to the nearest legislator.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

toon
Editorial cartoons for Sunday, Aug. 7

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Teresa Reynolds sits exhausted as members of her community clean the debris from their flood ravaged homes at Ogden Hollar in Hindman, Ky., Saturday, July 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Editorial: How many billion-dollar disasters will it take?

A tally of climate disasters shows an ever-increasing toll of costs and lives. Congress must act.

Calley Malloy, left, of Shawnee, Kan.; Cassie Woolworth, of Olathe, Kan.; and Dawn Rattan, right, of Shawnee, Kan., applaud during a primary watch party Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, in Overland Park, Kan. Kansas voters rejected a ballot measure in a conservative state with deep ties to the anti-abortion movement that would have allowed the Republican-controlled Legislature to tighten restrictions or ban abortion outright.(Tammy Ljungblad AP)/The Kansas City Star via AP)
Viewpoints: States’ abortion laws ignoring majority opinion

A survey found that majorities in states with restrictive laws support access to abortion in many cases.

Comment: Protect funding for Community Health Centers

CHC Snohomish, with several clinics in Snohomish County, provides a range of primary care services.

Comment: Employers should study up now for general election

Races for the state Legislature will be consequential as state lawmakers address numerous issues.

Constitution’s ‘militia’ clauses clarify use of firearms

Proponents of gun control have long pointed to the Second Amendment’s prefatory… Continue reading

Columnist Sid Schwab backs up his opinions with facts

I read a recent letter to the editor criticizing Herald columnist Sid… Continue reading

toon
Editorial cartoons for Saturday, Aug. 6

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

A group of Volunteers of America crisis counselors and workers meet with Gov. Jay Inslee, left, after the governor toured their facility and gave a brief address about mental health services on Thursday, July 28, 2022, outside the VOA Behavioral Health Crisis Call Center in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Our support makes sure lifeline is there in crises

The new 988 crisis line is seeing an increase in calls that speaks to the need for mental health care.

Most Read