December 19, 2011
Message from Rep. Mike Sells
Special session ends with considerable progress on the budget
The Legislature has adjourned until January 9, 2012. The just-ended special session, while short, did result in a bi-partisan agreement that takes a big bite out of the current budget shortfall. Budget writers plan to continue working throughout the month to reach consensus on the additional cuts that will be needed to rebalance the budget.
After the $10.5 billion we’ve already cut the last three years, there are simply no “easy” answers, but I am pleased we worked out this “down-payment” that was agreed to by a majority of members in both chambers. It includes administrative cuts across broad areas of the budget. Other areas were left whole for now while we work to understand the full impact additional cuts will have. There are many complex issues remaining that will require authorizing legislation and more public hearings.
But in the meantime, taking these steps gets us that much closer to meeting the challenge.
Education bills were also approved this week
The Legislature also approved two education bills designed to prepare more students for work in the aerospace industry.
The first, (House Bill 2159) creates competitive grant programs in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Subject to appropriations from the operating budget, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction would have the authority to allocate grants for three specific purposes.
- Entry-level aerospace assembly training for high school students
- Enhanced manufacturing skills programs for skill centers
- Specialized STEM courses for high schools as part of Project Lead-The-Way
The idea is to ensure that the aerospace jobs of today – and those of tomorrow – are going to students from Washington state.
Project Lead-The-Way is a national curriculum that encourages hands-on learning and project-based activities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Over 120 high schools in Washington state have incorporated Project Lead-The-Way curriculum into their schools.
The second STEM bill, HB 2160, requires the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) to incorporate STEM knowledge and skills into the teacher certification process.
More good economic news: Boeing/Machinists deal also helps Washington’s credit rating
Good economic news keeps coming for Washington state. In the past few weeks we’ve learned that:
- Small businesses are getting help to export their goods and services,
- Businesses will have reduced costs in 2012 thanks to state reforms
- Boeing’s 737 MAX will be built in Renton
- Consumer Reports gave kudos to five Washington businesses
- Our Ag industry is doing better than expected
All of these are evidence that our economy—while still struggling, is recovering slowly but surely.
After hearing back in August that Standard & Poor’s had downgraded our nation’s credit rating, it was very encouraging to hear that our state’s credit rating is in good shape, according to a special comment by Moody’s Investor Service’s Senior Vice President, Nicole Johnson.
In her report dated December 12, Johnson stated that the deal between Boeing Company and the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union, which secures thousands of jobs and provides union members a bonus that could boost sales tax collections, is credit positive for Washington state.
Moody’s rating for Washington is Aa1, defined here as “…. judged to be of high quality and are subject to very low credit risk. The modifier 1 indicates that the obligation ranks in the higher end of its generic rating category.”
The newly ratified contract will enhance economic stability throughout the entire state. Johnson’s report notes that the manufacturing sector in Washington accounts for 9.3% of all private sector jobs, and that, of those, the ones that include Boeing machinists are a substantially bigger part of the state’s economy: the durable goods manufacturing component that includes aerospace is 71.4% of all Washington manufacturing jobs compared to 61.3% nationwide.