Political Beat

Say it with me, “What gets cut?”

I’m pretty new to covering politics at The Columbian, but because I arrived as election season was heating up, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on quite a few editorial board meetings. One of the biggest issues currently facing the state Legislature is how lawmakers will boost public school funding to meet the state Supreme Court’s mandate, known as the McCleary decision.

Opinion editor Greg Jayne often gets right to the point and asks candidates, if elected, how they propose to adequately fund schools. Usually, he only asks the question once. But in the most recent editorial board hearing, count them.

Was that five times?

And the answer? Did you catch it?

I’ve transcribed some of the back-and-forth below. You can find a video of the entire meeting with Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, and her Democratic challenger Maureen Winningham here.

Jayne: The state is facing a billion dollar price tag for the McCleary  decision … How do we pay for that? Do we need to raise taxes?

Pike: … One of the things that I think is important to note is that the same party has controlled Olympia for about the last 25 years and we got here over a long period in this position of inadequate funding and we’re not going to fix it overnight. And one of the things that strikes me as really interesting, is we have three branches of government in our constitution and can you imagine if the Legislature told the Washington Supreme Court how to rule on cases and when to rule on cases? Which is exactly what they have done with McCleary …

One of the things I’m really proud of, for the first time in almost 30 year, we’ve had shared government …and we’ve put over  $1.7 billion dollars more into public education funding in the last biennium, which is the greater increase than any of any other previous Legislature…

Jayne: OK, let’s get back to the question. Can we do it without raising taxes?

Absolutely, we can. And another compelling information I have is, I’ve spent a lot of time in classrooms over the last few years, and I’ve had education kitchen cabinet meetings at my home that I hosted for teachers for about three hours … And never once does the subject of money come in, from the teachers that meet with me, they never ask for more money. What they want is a better system and they want more support …

Jayne: Well, that might be, but this mandate is here, how do we fund it? If you say we can do it without raising taxes, what gets cut?

Pike: Well, Mcleary was not just about money but about outcomes, it’s important to note … So there are two pieces to McCleary and we did several bills in the Legislature this year that tried to achieve better outcomes and we got real big push back from the public WEA (Washington Education Association) … and we do need accountability measures, that was a big part of McCleary and we do need more funding. Now, regardless of what the teachers are telling me, I do think more money will solve some of the problems, but i think part of that money has to be loosening up mandates that are coming down from the state. I have met with principles all over the district …

Jayne: OK but what gets cut from the budget to fund this?

Pike: Well, I think what we do is we  go back to what we did this year, which is we push for funding education first and we get that off the table, fund it first and then whatever left is we’re going to have to prioritize. I mean that’s why we’re elected is to make those tough choices.

Jayne: Right, so what’s get cut?

Pike: Well, we did about $100 million dollars in efficiency savings for the state in the last biennium go around and I think we can keep doing that as we move forward. One of the things, this might sound like I’m oversimplifying but if we reduced some of the regulations on business and we allowed more entrepreneurs, like The Columbian, to hire more people, new entrepreneurs to move to Washington. We have a great economy here it could but it could be so much better if we reduced some of the burdensome regulations and by doing that we’re going to have naturally more money into the state govt through personal wealth and sales tax, because when people have jobs they buy things. So I think it’s not that complicated, you can’t sort of cook the goose that lays the golden egg and expect them to keep delivering more money to state government. So I think you can’t just fund more education without also helping our business flourish in the state of Washington. We do that by reforming things like L&I (labor and industries), we encourage privatization, competition in our industrial insurance program …

Jayne: … Maureen, for McCleary do we need to raise taxes?

Lauren Dake

Lauren Dake covers politics for The Columbian. You can reach her at 360-735-4534 or lauren.dake@columbian.com. Follow her on Twitter .

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