Category Archives: In the News

Senate majority makes college more affordable with historic tuition cuts

Senate Majority leader Mark Schoesler recaps the news coverage of an historic session:

Historic’ tuition cut sets state apart from rest of U.S.

Seattle Times, June 13, 2015

Washington’s move isn’t well-known elsewhere in the country, but some say it could spur other states to think about cuts.

“I don’t know how widely known this proposal was,” said Dustin Weeden, a policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures. “If Washington gets lots of headlines, I really think a lot of people are going to be asking: ‘What’s going on in Washington? Why are they doing that?’ ”


Washington State Moves To Cut Public University Tuition By Up To 20 Percent

Associated Press, June 30, 2015:

“A decision this week to cut tuition for Washington state’s public universities by 15 to 20 percent over the next two years is a rare move that national experts believe could influence other states as they come out from under the recession. … The tuition cut was a Republican legislative priority this year that [Senate Ways and Means Chairman Andy] Hill said has been wildly popular.”


World Editorial Board | Yes, a tuition cut

Wenatchee World, July 5, 2015

It is an astounding, attention-getting move. No other state has had the courage to try it. It is a pay hike for the middle class, future debt relief for students and a significant boost for accessibility to higher education.


Legislature OKs new budget with rare tuition cuts and pay raises for teachers

Seattle Times, June 29, 2015

No other state has cut tuition for its public universities and colleges for the coming academic year, according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.


World Editorial Board | A state budget worth the wait

The Wenatchee World, July 5, 2015:

“The Washington Legislature at long last passed and the governor signed a two-year operating budget. It is a budget with strong bipartisan support, hailed by leaders of both parties, praised in House, Senate and governor’s office, described as one of the most innovative and satisfying budgets in memory. It almost could be forgotten that the budget deal came only after an excruciating six months of stalemate, maneuver and special sessions.”


GOP tuition cuts a breath of fresh political air

Seattle Times, Danny Westneat, July 4, 2015:

We’re now the laboratory for two social experiments: the $15 minimum wage, and big cuts to college tuition. What’s unique is they come from opposite sides of the political spectrum.

That it was Republicans who just scored what is believed to be the biggest college tuition cut in state history is a startling development.

“Over the years the state’s colleges had been defunded by the Democrats. It was part of a strategy called “high-tuition, high financial aid.” The colleges could increase tuition, while the cash-strapped state would focus on financial aid for needier students instead of giving a rich subsidy to everyone. …It was surprisingly the Republicans who launched a drive to reverse this privatization trend. In particular it was Baumgartner and Oak Harbor Sen. Barbara Bailey, joined later by freshman senator John Braun of Centralia.”


Editorial: Lower tuition boon to access higher education

Walla Walla Union Bulletin, July 7, 2015:

“The decision by the Legislature to slash tuition at public universities by 15 to 20 percent was a bold and prudent move that puts public higher education on the right path.”


Ron Judd, Columnist

Seattle Times, July 3, 2015:

The Legislature’s slashing of tuition at public universities is one of the few things state government has gotten right in the past decade. Kudos to the GOP legislators who made it happen.


The forever session: In which Republicans are winning

Everett Herald (Jerry Cornfield), July 2, 2015:

“Credit Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville. Under his leadership; the 26-member caucus displayed a rigid discipline and it paid off as its factions of conservatives and moderates can claim an important political victory or three this session.

“They beat down a capital gains tax and beat back a low-carbon fuel standard. They warded off cap-and-trade and minimum wage. They approved a gas tax hike — more than once — and many of their members are smiling about it. And the nation knows Senate Republicans drafted the unprecedented cut in tuition for students at public colleges and universities.

“It’s hard to see how it could have turned out much better for them.”


Senate budget breakdown over 1-1351: Get back to work

Seattle Times, July 3, 2015:

“By any measure, the accomplishments of the 2015 Washington Legislature are historic — record new investment in K-12 education and early learning, a boost in mental-health services, a long overdue transportation package and, stunningly, an actual reduction in public college tuition. A truly breathtaking effort of bipartisan leadership and give-and-take by lawmakers and the governor.”


World Editorial Board | Yes, a tuition cut

Wenatchee World, July 5, 2015:

“It is an astounding, attention-getting move. No other state has had the courage to try it. It is a pay hike for the middle class, future debt relief for students and a significant boost for accessibility to higher education. The Washington Legislature has voted to cut tuition at public universities by 15-20 percent by 2016. Community college tuition will be cut 5 percent.”



KING5: State lawmakers investigating Snohomish county clean energy contracts

EVERETT, Wash. — A series of contracts awarded by the Snohomish County Public Utilities District through a state clean energy grant program are under investigation by state lawmakers, some of whom are concerned about potential conflicts of interest between public and private entities.

Central to questions being raised, mostly by Senate Republicans, are dealings between the state Department of Commerce, Snohomish County PUD and a software company called 1Energy.

1Energy was started in 2011 by David Kaplan, a former Commerce Department consultant and PUD employee who won a no-bid contract for his new company not long after leaving the utility. He was also involved in the crafting of the state clean energy grant program.

Two other head executives with 1Energy had high-profile positions with the Department of Commerce before leaving for the private sector, and were involved in crafting the state’s clean energy grant framework.

“You have these employees who are going from the Department of Commerce to Snohomish County PUD to be CEO of a company with money following them every step of the way,” said State Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale), chair of the Energy, Environment and Telecommunications committee.

1Energy has received more than $8 million in grant funding to develop software for an effort led by Snohomish County PUD to create batteries for storing clean energy.

Questions into 1Energy began in April with a whistleblower complaint by Anthony Curtis, a PUD employee. His concerns were the source of an investigation called for by PUD commissioners. That investigation finished in early June. And though it found most of the contracting was proper and legal, it determined the first investment of public dollars “gives rise to the appearance of a conflict of interest.”

While employed by the PUD, the investigation determined Kaplan was given permission by former utility CEO Steve Klein to “continue consulting for outside clients” and it was known he “intended to identify an entrepreneurial opportunity in the course of his work.”

By the summer of 2011, the investigation states, Kaplan was “directly involved” in discussions with Klein and other PUD leaders about “a possible project following his departure.” 1Energy, it states, “was activated” by the initial contract with Snohomish County PUD.

In a statement to KING 5, Kaplan reiterated comments by the investigator that he “took specific steps to dispel any inference of favoritism.” Also stated by the investigator, and not included in Kaplan’s statement, is his efforts “fell short,” according to the report.

Kaplan did not respond to a follow-up email for comment.

Snohomish County PUD Interim CEO and former general counsel Anne Spengler highlighted the investigation’s determination the contracting process was legal.

“This is just the appearance of a conflict of interest,” said Spengler. “I wouldn’t characterize it as big. I would characterize it as an after-the-fact look at things we should have done differently.”

That includes, according to the report, having an independent review of the bidding process to ensure no conflict of interest.

“It’s a lesson learned for the PUD,” she continued, “One that we do take seriously because we are a public entity. But again, I think in the grand scheme of things, it is what it is.”

Sen. Ericksen said he intends to address this issue in the upcoming special session.

Seattle Times: Reducing class size starts with building more classrooms

AT a time when the Legislature is debating the best way to pay for basic education in K-12 schools, it makes sense to start with the most basic element of all: classrooms. No matter what we do this legislative session, we’re going to need more of them. That means tackling an outdated school-construction model that has created inequity and inefficiencies across our state’s 295 school districts.