Making our school-construction dollars go further

The following newsletter was sent to Sen. Doug Ericksen’s subscribers Feb. 20. To subscribe to Sen. Ericksen’s newsletters, click here.

Sen. Ericksen appears on TVW’s Inside Olympia Feb. 14 to discuss data-privacy legislation. To play video, click here.

  • Bill would exempt school construction from sales tax
  • Rough calculation shows Ferndale project would save $7.5 million
  • Frees up $400 million statewide, reduces tax burden

Congratulations to our local school districts that passed bond issues last week! Voters in the Ferndale School District passed a $112 million bond measure that includes local funding for a new high school. Voters in the Nooksack School District approved a $30 million bond issue that includes new classrooms and a replacement for Sumas Elementary. Now it’s time for the Legislature to finish the job, and make sure the public’s money goes where it should.

Unfortunately, Nooksack, Ferndale and every other school district in the state must pay sales tax on construction materials and supplies. That’s right – the state taxes school districts. It takes 6.5 percent right off the top. This classic bit of Olympia-accounting trickery gives the state general fund a cut of all school-construction spending, and forces local taxpayers to pay a greater share of project costs.

That’s why I have sponsored Senate Bill 5348, which would end the state skim, and redirect that money back to construction. This measure also applies to public-safety projects and college-and-university construction. It would free up $377 million over the next two years. The savings keep getting bigger as we ramp up our school-construction plans – some $431 million in 2021-23.

Take the Ferndale High School project. A rough calculation using standard rules of thumb shows taxpayers might save about $7.5 million in up-front costs and interest charges. Similar savings would be seen anywhere a new school is built.

The reasoning behind these sales-tax charges is particularly troubling — really an end-run around the constitution. Money from the sale of state-owned timber is supposed to go toward building schools. But by charging sales tax, the state siphons some of this money into the state general fund, where it can be spent for any purpose. This reduces the state’s share of school construction projects, and forces voters have to pass higher bond issues to make up the difference.

In Olympia, getting the most for our school-construction dollars ought to be a priority. Let’s leave the creative accounting to Hollywood.

The New Green Manifesto in Olympia

We’ve been hearing plenty about the New Green Manifesto back in Washington, D.C. – a scheme from some of Congress’ more radical members to reshape government to their liking, and assert greater control over our lives. It was my pleasure Monday to appear on the John Carlson Show on KVI-AM to discuss how this same philosophy is surfacing at the statehouse.

We’re seeing it in many forms, from “environmental justice” legislation to proposals for low carbon fuel standards and smart metering. Washington voters made their position clear when they said no to Initiative 1631, last fall’s sweeping climate-change initiative. Yet some people think they know better. In this interview, I explain why this is a dangerous time for our democratic institutions. You can listen to it here.

Recommended reading

Crosscut: How Seattle activists helped stop Amazon in NYC

Dori Monson on KIRO-FM: Jay Inslee uses homeless person’s death to push state income tax

KPQ: Bill to ban head taxes in Washington introduced

Jason Rantz on KTTH-AM: Bob Ferguson threatens sheriffs over guns, but gives pass to Seattle heroin sites

WNPA: Washington’s original constitution is stored in building that keeps flooding

Capital Press: Green New Deal calls for ag to be ‘greenhouse gas free’


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Phone: (360) 786-7682

Mail: P.O. Box 40442, Olympia, WA 98504