Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Budget’ Category

Washington marijuana legalization bid: smoke and mirrors?

by October 23rd, 2012

The Seattle Channel’s “City Inside Out” takes a look at Initiative 502 in an informative TV magazine segment below. If approved by voters, the initiative would legalize possession in Washington state of an ounce or less of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes. Pot purchased from approved dispensaries would be taxed at a rate of 25 percent, adding as much as $500 million a year in state revenues, according to official estimates. Street busts of small-scale buyers and sellers, which clog courts and which some say unfairly ensnare African-Americans, would subside. But critics say the high tax would fuel continuing black market sales – and that because it’s still a federal crime to possess pot, I-502 raises more questions than it answers.

The question facing voters on the ballot: “This measure would license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession for persons over twenty-one; remove state-law criminal and civil penalties for activities that it authorizes; tax marijuana sales; and earmark marijuana-related revenues. Should this measure be enacted into law?”

More from “City Inside Out.”

Here’s another debate on I-502, at The Washington Living Voters Guide, sponsored by the University of Washington’s UW Engage project, and the City Club of Seattle.

RELATED: “Marijuana legalization Leads In New Polls, But Not A Lock,” Seattle Times, 10/22/12

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Washington voters to decide on lowering state debt limit

by October 21st, 2012

One more decision facing Washington voters as they mull their mail-in ballots and state Voters’ Guides at their kitchen counters and dining tables in the days prior to the Nov. 6 Election Day deadline, is whether to tighten the state’s borrowing limit and change the way the state’s debt is calculated. Like most other states, Washington borrows billions of dollars each year, not for regular staffing and operations, but mainly to help pay for building or repairing physical structures such as schools, university and college buildings, water and wastewater treatment facilities, and state roads and highways.

In this case the ballot measure comes not from an outside advocacy group but from the legislature, in the form of a proposed amendment to the state constitution, Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution 8221. Starting July 1, 2014 it would it would in stages ratchet down the state’s debt limit from nine percent of general state revenues to eight. It would also redefine how to calculate general state revenues, shifting to a six-year average from the current three years. Finally, ESJR 8221 would add property tax revenues collected by the state – and directed to education – to be counted as part of the state’s general revenues. The proposed constitutional amendment stems from the recommendations of a special commission which last December issued a report on managing Washington state public debt in the future.

State report: K-12 spending hikes would yield modest gains

by October 17th, 2012

In its McCleary ruling last January, the Washington Supreme Court said the state has failed to meet its constitutional responsibility “to make ample provision for the education of all children.” As a result, by 2018, state K-12 spending could grow by one-fifth, legislative fiscal staff told researchers at the state’s in-house think tank, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. But in keeping with its mission to get to the bottom of what constitutes effective policy, the Institute wanted to know more. So in a new report titled “K-12 Education Spending and Student Outcomes: A Review of the Evidence,” Institute researchers Steve Aos and Annie Pennington, ask and try to begin to answer the question, “If K-12 spending is increased, is there reason to believe that student outcomes will improve and, if so, by how much?…That is, does money matter?” Their survey of the best academic literature shows a modest, some might say quite modest, positive relationship between increased general K-12 education spending and student outcomes.

However, a broader follow-up report due next July from the Institute and funded by the MacArthur Foundation, could reveal more about what specific strategies and programs are most likely to move the needle on graduation rates.

From K-12 Education Spending and Student Outcomes/Washington State Institute of Public Policy, Oct. 2012

In the current report, released this month by the Institute, Aos and Pennington carefully selected 40 studies (mostly from around the U.S.) with the strongest research designs, and where K-12 per-pupil expenditures were able to be directly correlated with student outcomes – either in terms of changes in scores on standardized tests, or changes in graduation or drop-out rates. They found that on average, for each 10 percent increase in per-pupil spending, there was an annual positive change in student outcomes of less than three-quarters of one percent in early grades, and that the benefit in percentage terms – across the various indicators – declined to an average annual gain of zero percent or nearly zero percent moving toward the end of high school.

However, small annual gains can add up, at least to a degree. The report stressed that over the course of the 13 years between kindergarten and high school graduation, a sustained level of spending ten percent higher in the aggregate than a flat level would, for example, boost the on-time graduation rate from the current 76.6 percent in Washington state to 79.5 percent. Divided by the baseline figure, that 2.9 percent bump actually would represent a 3.7 percent improvement over the 13 years, the researchers underscore. Based on that “elasticity” – or correlation between a percentage change in one increment with a percentage change in another – a 20 percent increase in K-12 per-pupil spending could lead to an approximate doubling of the benefit, to 6 or 7 percent.

Using an approved cost-benefit model and focusing on the outcome of on-time graduation rates, the follow-up report due in July will project the relative bang-for-buck from more particular policy strategies such as targeting improved teacher effectiveness, and from combinations of specific strategies – rather than just looking at gains from an incremental hike in general per-pupil spending, as the current report does. Other strategies to be examined for ability to improve performance outcomes will include smaller class sizes, all-day kindergarten, longer school days and longer school years, enhanced early childhood education, ramped up programs to recruit, hire and retain especially talented teachers, and more and better after-school programs, said Pennington, the Associate Director of the Institute.

Of the interim results in the current report she said, “given that the impacts are stronger in the early grades, one option may be to concentrate more resources there.”

Where state monies would come from to boost K-12 spending is still unclear. One approach, Initiative 1098 in 2010 for a state income tax on high earners to fund education and other programs, was roundly rejected by voters. A Joint Task Force on Education Funding is to report its suggestions to the legisalture by year’s end.


McCleary V. Washington ruling

Public Data Ferret’s Washington State+Education archive

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

City of Yakima tries ‘managed competition’ experiment

by October 13th, 2012

The Yakima City Council has unanimously approved a resolution opening the door to competitive bidding between in-house departments and outside contractors. The resolution OK’d October 2 says that because the city, state and national economies “are experiencing sustained economic losses resulting in decreased revenues” to governments, such competition is worth exploring because it could help bring savings and efficiency to Yakima’s operations. A memo to the council from city purchasing manager Sue Ownby says the first city division likely to use the process may be the airport, “based upon the Airport Board’s interest in considering both public and private sector management…”

CBO infographic explains deficit, debt, taxes, services

by August 28th, 2012

A recently released report and infographic from the U.S. Congressional Budget Office warn that Congress should stick to its guns and execute the intent of the federal deficit reduction laws it has passed in recent years, or risk putting the nation on an “unsustainable” fiscal path. Ending as planned a wide range of existing tax cuts including two percent off the Social Security payroll tax, plus making other planned benefits reductions to Medicare and unemployment, and allowing the planned triggering in 2013 of automatic cuts in discretionary and mandatory federal spending, would cut the federal deficit from a projected $1.1 trillion at the end of fiscal 2012 (ending Sept. 30) to $640 billion in fiscal 2013, says CBO.

Sticking to the planned 2013 reforms will shave away some economic growth and keep unemployment slightly higher, but more importantly, says CBO, it will prevent the federal public debt from soaring to 90 percent of Gross Domestic Product, a level not seen since World War 2. The infographic concludes, “Because current policies would ultimately lead to an unsustainable level of federal debt, policymakers will need to adopt – at some point – policies that will require people to pay significantly more in taxes, accept substantially less in government benefits and services, or both.”

Here below in three parts is the infographic prepared by CBO. Use your Web browser’s “zoom in” feature to increase the size of the print, as needed. Or view it here.

Public Data Ferret’s U.S. Government+ Finance/Budget archive

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the Seattle-based 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

WA eyes new U.S. transpo bill funds, but with questions

by July 18th, 2012

The passage of a new two-year $100 billion-plus federal transportation funding bill by Congress June 29 is expected to bring roughly $652 million to Washington state in 2013 and $657 million in 2014, compared to roughly $652 million for 2012, according to federal Department of Transportation estimates. But the new law is an authorization bill – meaning Congress still has to actually appropriate the money later when each fiscal year rolls around. Most telling, that $1.309 billion in the next two years is a tiny drop in the bucket, compared to the $50 billion that a blue ribbon panel appointed by Gov. Christine Gregoire said in January that the state needs to raise to maintain and strategically improve surface transportation infrastructure in the next ten years (Page 3, here ). That’s so, even compared to the “lowered expectations” scenario in the task force report, which urges raising at least $21 billion in the next decade for the state’s road and transit systems. A poster child for Washington’s transportation funding shortfall is the new State Route 520 bridge, now under construction. It is still about $2 billion short of the needed funding, which totals more than $4 billion.

King County jail revenues seen falling at least $10M short

by July 10th, 2012

A shortage of prisoners and a decline in paid services provided to them will blow a hole of at least $10 million this year in the budgeted revenue projections of the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention. Revenues collected by the department in 2012 for housing and servicing detainees from contracting cities and the state Department of Corrections could decline even more than that because of further reductions in jail-eligible populations by DOC, according to a June 28 letter from County Executive Dow Constantine to the county council.