February 19, 1996 in Nation/World

Olympia Striking Out With East Side

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Does this sound familiar? Checkbook in hand, legislators gallop to the rescue the very instant Western Washington demands $100 million for a … nicer baseball stadium. When Eastern Washington seeks minor state investments in more legitimate public purposes such as education and a state museum, legislators freeze in their tracks, purse their lips like Puritan parsons, pinch the pennies in their pockets and preach dour sermons about fiscal prudence.

The fact that it’s Republicans who now engage in this charade, rather than the usual Democrats, only makes the hypocrisy more noticeable.

Before the current legislative session ends, perhaps the politicians will recall that they soon must come, hat in hand, looking for votes on the dry side of the state.

Where, for instance, does would-be governor and chief Puritan penny-pincher Dale Foreman think Republican votes are found? Seattle? We may be conservative out here in family values country, but most of us recognize government has functions other than budgetary wrist-slashing.

For more than a decade, Eastern Washington has fought Western Washington’s pork barrelers in a dogged effort to maintain Washington State University and build its cost-efficient branch campus system. In addition we have battled for occasional crumbs off the Seattle banquet table to fund our economic development projects. The public support behind these battles is not about to disappear.

This year, Washington’s economy and state revenues are in good shape - plenty good enough to address East Side needs. Such as:

Hundreds of high school graduates are pounding on WSU’s door for admission. But academically qualified kids will be turned away this fall unless the tightwads in Olympia cough up a few million out of the hundreds of millions of available, unspent tax dollars that they are sitting on.

The state’s six universities have a universally supported plan to extend classes into outlying communities like Prosser and Port Angeles, via computer network. There’s money available to start this $34 million project and it ought to be funded.

Cheney Cowles Museum has done as last year’s Legislature recommended and submitted a lean request for $1.2 million to design a home for its world-class collection of Native American artifacts. This should be painless to approve. The collapse of plans for a science center here means last year’s $2 million state grant to Spokane won’t be spent. That money could shift to the museum - unless, as rumored, Olympia’s frugal fiscal hypocrites would prefer to convert the $2 million into an unplanned bundle of bacon for the Science Center in Mariner land.

Spokane’s Higher Education Park requests permission to buy a bit of essential land in its site that will cost more next year. It would do so with revenue bonds, at no cost to the state. In addition, it seeks $300,000 to start designing a small computer-based library for the campus’s students, who already need it.

If legislators focus on the mission of state government they will have no difficulty approving these requests. The people of Eastern Washington are waiting. Most of us rarely attend a Mariner’s game. But we do vote, we do pay taxes and we do expect something in return.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Webster/For the editorial board


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