Dante's Inferno had it right: Abandon all hope ye who enter here. The state budget, like Dante's various levels of hell, grows progressively worse. As Andrew Garber of the Seattle Times notes, the latest $1.4 billion revenue gap will simultaneously blow a hole in the budget and sap state reserves. "Legislators say there are no easy places to look for money, after they earlier this year cut projected spending by more than $4 billion, including deep cuts to higher education that were partially offset by allowing double-digit tuition increases. K-12 education and health-care programs were also hit hard," Garber writes.
The latest crisis will require a special session of the legislature, likely near the end of the calendar year. What of new taxes (or "alternative revenue streams" for the euphemistically inclined)? It's still a non-starter for Republicans. Does this mean Washington will need to shed its higher-ed portfolio?
California is a helpful example of looking beyond reflexive tuition hikes triggered by the Great Recession. Today's Los Angeles Times reports on Thursday's divided UC regents meeting, where a proposal to raise tuition by 8% to 16% a year through 2015-16 was quickly tabled. Is there a viable alternative, given the state's anemic economy? Regent chairwoman, Shery Lansing, and others hope to "raise billions of dollars in corporate and alumni donations and look for new tax revenues to make up for steep state funding cuts to higher education," Larry Gordon writes.
One of the creative-approach proponents is Gavin Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor and current Lt. Governor. "Newsom is convening meetings of UC, California State University system, and community college officials, along with labor and business leaders, to try to come up with a plan for better higher education funding. He said that might include an oil and gas production tax dedicated to colleges and universities," Gordon reports. Will Washington try to emulate the California model? Bill Gates, Sr. might prepare for a "we need to ask you a small favor" call from Governor Gregoire soon.
The removal of the Elwha dams is the enviro story of the decade, however much other conservation issues (wolf recovery, climate change, green jobs) obscure it. Lynda Mapes of the Seattle Times writes, "Demolition will be a start-and-stop affair, with pauses in the action for everything from fish migrating in the river, to giving the river time to redistribute some 24 million cubic yards of sediment impounded behind the dams." It's the largest dam-removal project ever in North America and will serve as a template for future efforts. Are the lower Snake River dams next?
There is a multiplier effect to awful economic news (think of it as the insult-to-injury rule). Lower revenues mean fewer public-sector jobs which then ripple out into the broader economy. Everett is a case study: The Kimberly Clark mill may close and with it the loss of nearly 750 living-wage jobs. At Providence Hospital this week, administrators announced layoffs for 175 workers. Now, as Debra Smith of the Everett Herald reports, the U.S. Postal Service may shutter an Everett mail processing and distribution center which employes 290 people. "The bad jobs news just won't quit in Everett," Smith writes.
Anticipating today's wave of horrors, from the state budget crisis to growing joblessness to the de-funding of higher-ed, the Everett Herald offers a therapeutic treat in the form of the inimitable singing Scandinavian comedian, Stan Boreson. It's a reprise of Kaitlin Manry's 2007 profile, which includes Stan's music video, "I just don't look good naked anymore." A must see.
Los Angeles Times, "UC regents recoil at possibility of 16 percent tuition hike"
Seattle Times, "Elwha dams' historic removal begins"
Everett Herald, "U.S. Postal Service may close Everett processing center"
Everett Herald, "Stan Boreson can't stop singing"