The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

Legislative Commentary

 

September 13, 2018



While it’s still summer according to the calendar, the football schedule had the WSU Cougars playing their first home game of the season on Sept. 8; a sure sign that fall is not far off.

Several weeks ago it looked like members of Cougar Nation who use State Route 26 would have to contend with a significant detour on their way to and from Pullman, while the highway bridge over the railroad tracks about 15 miles east of Othello undergoes major repairs.

WSDOT says that project is now on hold until later in September, so hopefully the delay allows word of the detour to reach more of those who will be affected.

When the time does come to close SR 26 (for an estimated six weeks), one of the alternative routes will follow I-90 through Ritzville – a great opportunity for WSU fans to stop and visit my hometown.

I’m glad all the schools in our Ninth District started the new academic year on schedule, and disappointed by the teacher walkouts that have happened elsewhere in our state.

Although nothing in state law grants teachers the right to strike, Governor Inslee and the state schools superintendent continue to show no interest in intervening on the side of the students and families who are affected.

It’s too soon to know if the double-digit pay raises that have been demanded by local teachers’ unions, and agreed to by many school districts, will force layoffs of younger teachers in the next year or two. But I already have concerns that they will bring another huge long-term cost down the road. Keep reading for more on that.

Rally at mental hospital highlights Inslee’s management failure: The teacher rallies have overshadowed a more serious situation, at Western State Hospital in Pierce County.

Workers at the larger of the two state-run psychiatric hospitals (the other is Eastern State, in Medical Lake) recently held a rally to bring attention to safety and staffing issues.

Things have sunk to the point that staffers are assaulted frequently and a nursing supervisor said he’s worried every day that someone will die at the facility from violence.

Inslee’s inability to get things straightened out at WSH has already caused the federal government to yank $53 million in funding, a cost that now falls on Washington taxpayers.

Here’s something for the governor to consider: instead of jetting around to Iowa and elsewhere to play politics on a national stage, and jumping at every opportunity to talk about climate change, why not stay home and focus on changing the climate for workers and patients at Western State?

They deserve better than they’re getting from Inslee and his administration.

The long-term cost of educator raises: Every now and then I mention going over to the Capitol for a meeting of the Select Committee on Pension Policy, and how pension policy is such an important topic. Here’s a new example of why.

Knowing that salaries are factored into pension benefits, a member of our Senate Republican policy staff wondered what a one-time, statewide 15 percent bump in K-12 teacher salaries would mean in terms of increased pension costs to taxpayers.

The state actuary (who is one of the most competent public servants I’ve ever known) came back with a staggering estimate: $2.8 billion in increased taxpayer costs to fund the higher pensions over the next 25 years.

That’s just for teachers; it doesn’t count classified staff who also are pursuing raises. I expect to get more detail at our next pension committee meeting, on Sept. 18.

Sign up by Sept. 15 for pesticide disposal: Anyone looking to properly dispose of unusable and unwanted pesticide products at no cost may sign up with the state Department of Agriculture by Sept. 15 for collections happening next month.

The collections will take place Oct. 3 near Spokane and Oct. 4 near Pullman; times and locations will be sent to those who sign up and provide an inventory of products to be disposed.

To sign up, contact WSDA via email at [email protected] or call 360-902-2056, and also go to agr.wa.gov/wastepesticide for directions to where the inventory form and the instructions document may be downloaded.

The agency asks that you note on the inventory form, or the email to which it is attached, whether you prefer the Pullman or Spokane location. Send the completed form to WSDA at [email protected], fax it to 360-902-2093 or mail it to the address on the form.

Upon receipt of the inventory form a confirmation will be sent to you.

 

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