Midday Scan: Internationalizing at UW; saving useless tax breaks

To deal with the draconian cuts by legislators, the University of Washington is admitting more high-tuition students from China. And those same legislators are so scared of raising business taxes that they can't even eliminate tax breaks that no one uses.

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University of Washington (2007)

To deal with the draconian cuts by legislators, the University of Washington is admitting more high-tuition students from China. And those same legislators are so scared of raising business taxes that they can't even eliminate tax breaks that no one uses.

China's "peaceful rise" now extends to Husky Nation. With attenuating resources, the University of Washington has adopted the Willie Sutton law of imaginative, that's-where-the-money-is financing.

"This is the University of Washington's new math: 18 percent of its freshmen come from abroad, most from China. Each pays tuition of $28,059, about three times as much as students from Washington State. And that, according to the dean of admissions, is how low-income Washingtonians — more than a quarter of the class — get a free ride," the New York Times' Tamar Lewin writes. "With state financing slashed by more than half in the last three years, university officials decided to pull back on admissions offers to Washington residents, and increase them to students overseas."

The overseas-student strategy always risks blowback from surly Washington parents. State Rep. Reuven Carlyle understands the sentiment but tells Lewin, "We are struggling with capacity, access and affordability. But international engagement is part of our state’s DNA. We have a special economic and social relationship with China, and I am happy to have so many Chinese students at the university."  

Rep. Carlyle is also trying to unscramble the state's Leviathan of tax-break laws. Why, for example, are even unused (!) tax breaks difficult if not impossible to repeal? Like Social Security or rent control, they seem off limits. Don't mess with pointless or superannuated tax breaks. Or else.  

"Lawmakers have talked for years about plugging holes in the state budget by paring back the dizzying number of tax breaks," the Seattle Times' Andrew Garber writes. "But the political reality is, they can't even get rid of ones that aren't being used." 

Garber's Sunday article is required reading for anyone mulling over meaningful solutions to the state's budget impasse. The latest strategy revolves around setting an expiration date on existing tax breaks. Garber writes, "Interest groups are contemplating taking that idea a giant step further and putting an initiative on the ballot that would set expiration dates on nearly all existing tax exemptions."

In an editorial, the Seattle Times drops the hammer on two state committee chairs for throttling education reforms. "State lawmakers are again punting on sensible education reforms," the ed board opines. "Senate education committee chair Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, and her counterpart in the House, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, used their gavels to doom promising legislation adding accountability to teacher evaluations and allowing a small number of charter schools into our state."

The Times gives plaudits to Democratic Rep. Eric Pettigrew who "wrote a thoughtful bill authorizing 10 closely monitored charter schools a year. They would be run by nonprofits, focus on struggling students and could use unionized teachers. Nothing in that bill could lead anyone to think it privatized education." As with the U.S. Congress, state committee chairs are legislative doorkeepers. Should they have cracked open the door just a wee bit?

Snohomish County is often a barometer of Washington's economic health. At least regarding real estate, that could be very bad news. As the Herald's Amy Daybert writes, "Nearly half of all single-family homes sales last year in Snohomish County was either a short sale or foreclosure, according to Washington Property Solutions, a short sale negotiating company based in Bellevue."  

Daybert examines the fallout from the county's ominous-sounding "distressed properties" (true, it's the homeowners, not the homes, that are distressed). "While the percentage of short sales remained steady from 2010 to 2011, there was an increase in bank-owned property sales last year, according to Richard Eastern, founder of Washington Property Solutions," Daybert writes. 

Lastly, remember when the Episcopal Church was called the "Republican party at prayer?" Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the cathedral. As the Seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly writes, same-sex marriage is not the lightning rod it is with the Catholic Church. "The Episcopal bishop in Western Washington, in sharp disagreement with Catholic prelates, believes that same-sex marriage is 'a conservative proposal' that should be adopted 'not only in our society but in our church,' " Connelly writes.

Link Summary

New York Times, "International students pay top dollar at U.S. colleges"

Seattle Times, "Even unused tax breaks tough for legislators to plug"

Seattle Times, "Washington's legislative education chairs stalled reforms to improve education"

The Herald, "Half of county home sales were foreclosures or short sales"

Seattlepi.com, "Local bishop supports same-sex marriage"


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson