Ballot measure gives us chance to fix budget for good

Published in The News Tribune August 15, 2010

Should we be upset that Congress has just promised Washington an extra $526 million?  Not I nor, I think, will others whose kids go to our public schools, who use Medicaid for health insurance or have a parent in a nursing home, or who otherwise support the wide range of services the state provides:  This money will help assure their continuation.

According to Richard Davis, however, we would be better off without this additional federal dollars (“We missed a chance to really fix the state budget”, TNT 8/11).  Basically, Davis believes this windfall has allowed elected officials to temporarily avoid the hard choices ahead. Continue reading

In economic terms, raising taxes better than budget cuts”

Published in The News Tribune, March 9, 2010

Peter Callaghan noted in his column (“Instead of guessing, we could ask our economist about tax increases”, 2/21/10) that elected officials in Olympia are throwing out dueling claims over the effect new state taxes will have on the economy.  He asks “Would it cripple a halting economic recovery? Would deeper budget cuts do the same?”

The truth is, neither cuts in public spending nor tax increases are ideal in a recession as both reduce demand for goods and services (and hence employment) in the economy. However unlike the federal government – which can rely on deficit spending during recessions – the state government must choose cuts, new taxes, or a combination of both.  Given this choice, deeper cuts in spending on investments to education, health care and infrastructure improvements would be the worst option. Continue reading

Climate change likely to be costly for Washington residents

Written with Peter Dorman and Hart Hodges for The Olympian, March 12, 2009

Most people would not be very happy if they had to devote a bigger chunk of their household income every year to a problem that could have been mitigated years earlier for a fraction of the cost. Yet, that scenario seems likely if the global society fails to adopt policies to reduce emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases.

A number of bills have been introduced in the current legislative session intended to reduce the state’s carbon emissions. These bills have, understandably, resulted in heated discussion about whether it is better to act now to mitigate the impacts of climate change or to respond to the changes later. Continue reading

State should respond to climate changes now, not later

Published with Karin Sable in The News Tribune, Jan 23, 2007

When our new legislature convenes in Olympia this month, Washington’s lawmakers will tackle tough policy issues on energy, education, environmental quality, health care, and stewardship of the state’s natural resources.  We hope they will choose to prioritize planning for climate change.  This particular issue stands to have widespread ramifications for state policy, including those affecting the economy, the environment and the safety of our communities.

Among their briefing books and background papers, legislators will find a new study titled “Impacts of Climate Change on Washington’s Economy.” Continue reading

Debate over test data signals serious approach

Published in The News Tribune, September 5, 2004

 The recent controversy over charter schools is something to welcome. While both sides of the dispute overstate what recent national test scores do and do not say about the effectiveness of charter schools, the debate over data indicates we may finally be getting serious about education policy.

The controversy started when the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) announced an apparent coverup by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE).  The AFT charged that the DOE had made data unavailable on the performance of charter schools showing that these schools were “underperforming”. Continue reading