Doing right by our kids is patriotic

July 7, 2010 | John Burbank

From the Everett Herald:

john burbank

Who is a patriot? A fair question to ask during the week of our nation’s birthday. What happens if you wear a flag pin on your lapel, and you work to undermine the paramount constitutional duty of our state? How’s that for patriotism?

Our state’s paramount constitutional duty is basic education. Washington’s constitution requires that our state “make ample provision for the education of all children…” But according to King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick, we have undermined that duty. Our Legislature has failed to “fully fund” K-12 education with “stable and dependable” revenues. In terms of actual dollars, we put less money into K-12 education per pupil than Alabama!

Everyone talks a big game about education. The people, in one school district after another, get it. This past February, after Judge Erlick’s ruling, voters overwhelmingly approved school levies across the state. Edmonds, Everett, Lake Stevens, Marysville, Mukilteo, Northshore, Snohomish and Sultan all passed school levies by big margins.

But school levies are supposed to be for the “add-ons” of education, not the core funding. The state is responsible for four-fifths of funding, so the Legislature is where the rubber meets the road for education. It is our own legislators who can’t seem to come up with the funding.

Why don’t they? Step back and consider our state’s best known watch salesman, Tim Eyman, and his campaigns that have empowered a minority of legislators to block public revenue needed for education.

Eyman’s Initiative 960 required a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate to pass legislation for new revenue, including closing tax loopholes. It passed in 2007 by a small margin, 51.2 percent to 48.8 percent. In Snohomish County, the measure received almost 54 percent of the vote. The effect of I-960 was to allow a minority of legislators to thwart the will of the majority when considering revenue proposals. As a result, the Legislature was prevented from considering new revenue sources in 2009, such as a tax on large oil companies or Wall Street banks.

Of course, Eyman wouldn’t be in the driver’s seat of his endless stream of initiatives if people didn’t vote for them. So we have ourselves to blame for the initiatives he has contrived to undermine public services.

This year the Legislature got up the gumption to amend I-960 to require a simple majority vote for new revenues. It is, after all, a basic tenet of democracy that the majority prevails. And legislators then figured out some new sources of revenue to partially fund education. That seems like common sense. But how have the vested interests responded? Not in a particularly patriotic manner.

Tim Eyman is back with “son of 960” (I-1053), which again would empower a minority of legislators to hobble funding for our state’s paramount duty of educating all children. How patriotic is that?

The American Beverage Association is pouring more than $2 million into I-1107, which would remove sales taxes from candy, gum and soft drinks. If passed, that initiative will suck $100 million a year out of state revenues. As an added bonus, while defunding education, this initiative will increase health care costs by accelerating childhood diabetes and feeding our increasing obesity. Is that patriotic?

Two other initiatives will close down state liquor stores and enable Costco or your local supermarket to sell hard liquor. You want the Johnnie Walker along with your bulk purchase of dog food? Just don’t open it up until you get home. Out-of-state liquor distributors have poured more than $1 million into I-1105, while Costco is pushing I-1100, having spent $735,000 just to get it on the ballot. It is a cheap investment to gain millions in liquor sales.

But each of these initiatives will suck about $165 million a year out of state revenues. They will also make it easier for our kids to get hard liquor. More teenagers will lose their lives in highway accidents fueled by alcohol, and we can anticipate increased youth addiction to alcohol. So just what exactly is patriotic about privatizing the sales of hard liquor?

Taken together, these four initiatives will cost our state — and our children — half a billion dollars in public investments every two years, undermining our children’s prospects for education and economic opportunity. That isn’t patriotic. It is just plain wrong.

It is fine and indeed good to fly the flag for our country. But doing right by our children would be truly patriotic.

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Posted in Column, Education

Comments

  1. John says:

    To the author: What an embarrassingly shallow and selective recitation of fact. I’d be very happy to debate you on this topic anytime, as long as the cameras are rolling. Have you read the budget? Hmm.

  2. Ken says:

    To John Burbank,

    “the Legislature got up the gumption to amend I-960 to require a simple majority vote for new revenues. It is, after all, a basic tenet of democracy that the majority prevails.” What are you drinking? The PEOPLE have spoken! So what part of “majority” don’t YOU understand? Democrats will spend and raise taxes if not checked. I-1053 will pass again and in two years the Legislators will appeal it so they can raise taxes again. Shame on you and on them.

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