A leaking roof, peeling carpets and stale air — not an environment where we want our teachers and students trying to succeed.
Statewide, there are almost 5,000 needed projects of all different types.
A proposal in the House of Representatives would send a bond measure to the people for a vote. It would bond $3 billion against the state’s credit rating to pay for these school improvement and energy efficiency projects, as well as higher education facilities.
This is a half-baked idea that would not be the best for our district or our state, for several reasons. First, the sponsor indicates that 90,000 jobs would be created from this proposal. I’m not sure that this figure would be realized, or even as immediately as needed. The state’s economic forecaster predicts Washington will begin experiencing growth again halfway through 2010, but the $3 billion in debt would take 20 years to pay off.
Second, there’s a question of how this $3 billion in debt would be paid for. This bond would create $210 million in debt service payments each year from the operating budget. This is similar to the minimum balance you’re required to pay on your credit card. To pay this $210 million, it’s proposed that $80 million would come from the savings realized from energy efficiencies made. The remaining $130 million to be paid, however, does not have a revenue source, other than the operating budget. I smell a tax increase coming, and the sponsor confirmed this, twice.
There’s no question that leaking roofs, poorly insulated walls and windows, and a lack of adequate lighting are unacceptable for our students and hard-working teachers. As a member of the Capital Budget Committee, I want to know why we aren’t using current capital budget funds — $3 billion in total — to prioritize and take care of these problems. One parent who testified to the committee said she has been trying to get the state to address poor construction and maintenance of buildings for 16 years. This is unconscionable.
For the next two years, $827 million is set to be awarded to schools as long as they demonstrate need, use the dollars for buildings at least 20 years old and have local support. Apparently this is not enough. But is a tax increase — I mean bond measure — the way to go? This should be a priority of government — to make sure our children are learning in healthy environments and that the state is protecting its structural investments.
The priorities of the majority party are mixed up. Hundreds of teachers could be laid off in this state while they ask voters, who are barely making ends meet, to approve a bond measure to do what the state should have been doing all along.
Rep. Mike Hope represents the 44th District including Marysville, Lake Stevens, Snohomish and Mill Creek. He is a member of the House Capital Budget Committee, and sits on the Education and Education Appropriations committees.