The Tacoma News Tribune editorial board chimes in on the growing crisis at our public college and university system: “Seats in public colleges, career opportunities, are fast disappearing.”
What’s being broken here is not only an intergenerational obligation, but a social compact. Washington lags far behind most other states in the capacity of its four-year schools. It supposedly compensates for this deficiency with higher-than-average capacity in its two-year colleges. The deal was, you could go to a community college, do your homework, then transfer to get a UW degree.
But this only works if there’s room at the UW in Seattle, Tacoma and Bothell – which there isn’t. Today’s 18-year-olds could well ask of today’s lawmakers and taxpayers, “Why couldn’t you provide for us the same college opportunity your parents provided for you?”
This is an issue that should create outrage, for it threatens all of our futures, not just the unfortunate members of the “baby boom echo” generation who are being denied educational opportunities. If universities are the engines that drive local economic development, ours is running out of gas.
Some of my regular readers might wonder why I am focusing on this instead of my usual obsession with tax structure and all things Eyman. Well this economically shortsighted failure to meet our “intergenerational obligation” is all about taxes.
The reason public universities across the state are shutting their doors to new admissions is because we the people have been too cheap to properly fund them. We’ve allowed lying, self-serving demagogues like Tim Eyman to convince us that state spending is out of control (it is not,) and spineless, unimaginative politicians to convince themselves that we can’t do anything to fix the most regressive and unfair tax structure in the nation… the true cause of our state’s growing crisis of revenue adequacy.
Take a look at this gem of quote in today’s Seattle P-I (“Sims, Gregoire widely split“) from Attorney General Christine Gregoire, the front runner for governor:
Gregoire added that a proposal to create an income tax would be “dead on arrival” with state lawmakers and the public. “Leadership is about getting things done,” she said.
That’s not “leadership” Christine… that’s following.
Leadership is using your office as a bully pulpit to build consensus where none existed. And while I’m not entirely convinced that Ron Sims is up to the task of persuading, cajoling and strong-arming voters into approving his tax reform proposals, at least he’s willing to spend his political capital trying, instead of just sticking his finger in the wind and accepting common wisdom.
“Pragmatic” politicians like Christine Gregoire and Gary Locke may think income tax proponents are tilting at windmills, but I’d rather fight a quixotic campaign to save our state from the inevitable budgetary meltdown, than continue to sit idly by watching middle- and low-income households ground between the mill stones.
We could implement a reform package that doesn’t cost Washington a penny more in taxes, yet easily puts an additional $600 million into state coffers. But rather than even discuss such a sensible proposal, Christine defends the status quo with misleading, Eymanesque scare tactics: “This is about whether we’re going to raise taxes as we’re trying to pull ourselves out of a recession.”
Ron’s reply is refreshingly blunt: “You can’t grow your economy with stupid, unskilled people.”
You get what you pay for folks, and right now we’re on pace to buy ourselves a second-rate economy.