Saturday, November 12, 2011

Children of the Great Recession: What are the impacts?

The devastating impact of the Great Recession on men and women who lose their jobs and their status as family breadwinners is clear and unmistakable. But what are the effects on the children of these fathers and mothers buffeted by economic uncertainty?
In one Eastern state, researchers from government, the private sector and nonprofits discovered potentially deep and longlasting consequences for children, including increased malnutrition, homelessness, school failure, violence, running away, abuse and neglect. The Legislature there responded with bipartisan support for sweeping legislation that passed nearly unanimously.
Now, state Rep. Jeannie Darneille and Sen. Debbie Regala of Tacoma want to find out what’s happing to the children of the recession in Washington state – and what lawmakers can do about it.  They are convening a public forum Tuesday, Nov 15 in Tacoma to hear the stories of the affected kids and their parents in their own words.
For more information about the forum, go here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Honor a vet on Veterans' Day - by hiring one

Photo courtesy Wash. State National Guard
The best way to honor those who've served and sacrificed for our country is simple: give one a job. 
According to the Labor Department, the national unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is 12.1 percent.
That's sadly higher than the state unemployment rate of 9 percent. And even 9 percent is too high.
Our state has a huge population of veterans, because we've always been a hub for the Army, Air Force and Navy.
From the submarines at Bangor to the planes at Fairchild in Spokane, this is a place with a lot of active-duty G.I.'s and veterans who've served out and choose to make this state their home.
We're home to a massive Army-Air Force base (Joint Base Lewis-McChord) and seven different Navy and Marine bases. 
So 12.1 percent unemployment for veterans is a problem that hits home to us.
It's fine to honor veterans on Veterans' Day by flying the American flag, going to parades or calling up vets in your family to wish them well. Those are fine and noble things.
What's better is giving a veteran a job -- or, if you're not in a position to hire somebody, passing on tips to people that do hire, or veterans who need a job.
Most jobs are never advertised. It's all word of mouth. So if you can, please pass on a good word to a vet -- or about a vet you know -- not just on Veterans' Day, but all year round.
There are also some good resources out there for vets and people who'd like to support them: 
  • A new national site by the Labor Department for veterans, My Next Move, is a comprehensive starting point for vets looking for a new career out of uniform.
  • The Washington state Department of Veterans Affairs has a number of programs to help vets and get them jobs, including Hire Vets First and Shop Vets First.
  • The state Veterans Conservation Corps is made up of three separate programs to train and employ veterans in the conservation field, doing work like the restoration of streams, wetlands and forests.

Mainstreet Fairness Act introduced in Congress yesterday has support here

A bi-partisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate yesterday would generate an estimated $483 million for Washington state and local governments during the 2013-15 biennium, according to the Washington State Department of Revenue.

The Marketplace Fairness Act would require out-of-state companies with more than $500,000 a year in remote sales to begin collecting and remitting sales tax on sales to customers in Washington and other states that adopt certain changes to their tax laws to simplify collection. Washington already has adopted those changes with the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, so it could begin collecting these taxes 90 days after the bill is signed into law.

The bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Illinois), Sen. Mike Enzi, (R-Wyoming), and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee).

House Ways and Means chair Ross Hunter welcomed news of the proposal with this statement:

“This bill represents what can happen if Congress chooses to function in a bipartisan manner. It delivers fairness to local, Main Street merchants who have been forced to compete with Internet retailers who escape sales taxes. It’s also a forward-looking response to the changing global marketplace.

“For Washington state, this measure could produce an enormous financial benefit – as much as $245 million a year – at a time when we are facing draconian cuts to education and critical services.

“State and local governments and businesses have been seeking this kind of modernization of the sales tax system for years. When you see Democrats and Republicans joining together in Congress to push for this, you know it’s an idea whose time has come.”

Here is more information on the Marketplace Fairness Act.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Would a cheaper textbook be of interest to you?

State news about higher education has been pretty bleak recently, but one program is bringing some relief to college students. Started by the 2009 Legislature through funding from the state and Gates Foundation, Washington has now opened the Open Course Library.
What is the Open Course Library? Rep. Reuven Carlyle spearheaded getting the state to fund its half of $1.5 million investment and wrote about it back then his blog,
Today I’d like to tell you how a ONE TIME state investment of $750,000 in precious tax dollars has the very real likelihood of turning into a $41 million savings ANNUALLY for college students in Washington. Are you awake now?
Unfortunately, tuition is only one piece of the puzzle and yet it sucks the oxygen out of the room of so many other issues that impact the ‘total cost of attendance’ for students. The best example? Every family, whether rich, poor or squarely in the middle, has the exact same sense of moral outrage staring at textbook bill that now averages more than $1,000 a year for a regular full time student.
I have long held a fascination with the ruthless cost of textbooks at our colleges and universities. One of the projects I am most proud of from my first term in the Legislature is a $750,000 appropriation that I worked very, very hard to successfully include in the 2009-2011 budget. The appropriation created an open textbook and course material program for our state’s community and technical college students.
You can read a post about the Open Course Library launch at Carlyle's blog: Beginning of the end for $100 college textbooks: Legislature, colleges, Gates Foundation partner
The Seattle Times Editorial Board also weighed in on the event:
Students who used to pay nearly $200 for a new pre-calculus textbook can pay only $20 — or use it online for free.
The $1.26 million in expected savings for the 2011-2012 school year represents real money for community-college students, who often are older and paying for their own education and living expenses.
The real prize is $41 million in annual savings if all faculty at the state's 34 community- and technical-colleges begin assigning open-source texts to their students.
Read more about this ground-breaking Washington program in this Seattle Times article, Low-cost textbooks for college students make debut.

And of course, don't forget to check out the Open Course Library's website.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rep. Kagi recognized for student advocacy work

Each year, the Shoreline Community College Foundation hosts a breakfast to help raise funds for student scholarships and emergency loans.  This year's breakfast also honored state Rep. Ruth Kagi for her student advocacy efforts both within the community and the state legislature.  She was the recipient of this year's "Distinguished Service Award."

As a member of the Foundation's Board of Directors, Rep. Kagi has long been committed to helping students who otherwise wouldn't be able to access the community college system.  As the state faces further budget cuts which may affect state-funded student financial aid programs, Rep. Kagi says organizations like the Shoreline Community College Foundation are more important than ever.

Foundation president J. Scott Saunders accepted the award on Rep. Kagi's behalf, because on that very morning the 32nd District legislator was slated to be in Washington DC to give a presentation about our state's efforts to improve foster youth educational outcomes.  More info about the DC presentation, as well as Rep. Kagi's foster care presentation next week in Denver, will be posted soon here on The Advance.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Governor's proposed budget cuts

With a special session coming up November 28, and the regular legislative session starting in early January, the governor has put a list of further budget cuts on the table.  The current two-year budget needs to be adjusted, as revenue is now expected to be $2 billion less than what was anticipated.

Governor Gregoire's office has setup a website, with proposed cuts laid out by area:  Budget Reduction Alternatives.  You can also view all of the cuts in one document here.

Over at TVW you can also watch the governor lay out her proposal and take questions from the press: