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Eye On Olympia

Posts tagged: cap

Bill to toss out limits on tuition increases, new study of effects of a 14 percent tuition hike…

Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton, this morning introduced HB 2344, which would do away with the existing 7 percent limit on tuition increases at the state’s four-year colleges.

Under the bill, lawmakers would set tuition levels every two years when they write the budget.

Haigh suggests that higher tuition is better than the $700 million in higher ed budget cuts proposed in the House budget. College officials have said that that would mean thousands of layoffs and would force many students to stay in school for a semester or a year more in order to get into classes needed to graduate.

“We cannot afford to choose between quality and access,” she said in a statement. “The demand for higher education is higher than ever, and the need for a highly educated workforce is growing. We are not doing right by students when we close the door to a college dream, and we are not doing right by our state when we cut the flow of educated workers into our workforce.”

(Side note: Committee staffer Debbie Driver’s bill report, by the way, has an excellent breakdown of tuition increase limits over the past 8 years in Washington. The short form: they’ve fluctuated wildly, from 3.6 percent (2000-2001) to 16 percent for the biggest schools during the last state budget crisis in 2002-2003.)

As if in response, the Economic Opportunity Institute also happened to issue this policy brief this morning. Written by Gabriel Nishimura, it blasts lawmakers idea of a high-tuition, high-financial-aid model for the state’s colleges. Among the findings:

-sticker shock from high tuition drives away low-income and minority students,
-top students are more likely to go to private colleges instead,
-quality drops as schools shift around money to try to compensate for the high tuition costs,
-and the financial aid is heavy on loans that students are saddled with upon graduation.

There’s a lot of good data in the report. Among the facts cited: the average University of Washington undergraduate today walks away with a degree and $16,481 in debt.

Eyman’s new offering: a cap on all state and local taxes…

Undeterred by voters’ rejection of his last ballot measure at the polls in November, initiative pitchman Tim Eyman — baby in hand — today filed his “Lower Property Taxes Initiative” for this year.

The measure caps the total revenue from taxes and fees at this year’s level, plus the rate of inflation each year. Any “excess revenues,” say from a future surge in real estate taxes or booming economy, would go into a fund to reduce property taxes the following year. As with Eyman’s earlier property-tax initiative, I-747, voters could override the cap.

“We believe a majority of citizens are going to find it reasonable that governments continue to grow, but that they grow at a rate that we can afford,” Eyman told reporters at the Secretary of State’s office this morning. “When you have 6,7,8 percent increases in our tax burden every year, that compounds every year and it gets exponential to the point that we can’t afford it anymore.”

“Government isn’t getting smaller,” he said. “Even with the initiatives that we’ve passed, government has never gotten smaller. All that we’ve really managed to do is slow down the rate of growth of government.”

The formula in Eyman’s measure, however, doesn’t seem to take into account population growth or other changes, like tough-on-crime laws keeping more people to prison at nearly $30k a year each. (Eyman’s response: that voters can always vote for more if government makes a good case for it.)

Eyman said he expects to start circulating petiitions by February. He and his signature-gatherers will need to collect about 300,000 signatures by July in order to get the measure on the November ballot.


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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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