Discuss: Rob McKenna's education spending plan too good to be true?
GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna's plan to substantially increase education spending by capping spending in all other years, sets the stage for education to dominate policy debates and budget priorities.
McKenna's education agenda responds directly to pressing public concerns: marked declines in spending and a gradual & troubling rise in class sizes.
So Washington's current attorney general proposes spending $4.7 billion more on schools by the year 2019. That's great. But to raise the money, McKenna assumes optimistic state revenue projections of 9 percent growth per biennium. The economy is growing now. Growth is not the problem, but rather at what rate. If this state economy can shed its sluggishness and spur 4.5 percent growth annually, Democrats and Republicans should join me in a conga line around the state capitol.
The other thing that worries me is McKenna's proposed cap on non-education spending. Most of the state's spending growth is in health care, particularly, Medicaid. State Rep. Ross Hunter ,a Democrat, has already pointed out the challenge of stemming Medicaid growth when much of it is seniors qualifying for the program at a rate of 4 percent.a year. McKenna has to respond to this question about Grandpa and Grandma.
Democrats are hard-pressed to dismiss McKenna because he is doing what they want: prioritizing education in state policy and showing a willingness to spend lots more in this arena. So they instead criticize his plan as an attempt to fund education without new taxes. Of course it is. So will Jay Inslee's plan, when he gets around to put concrete numbers to concrete policy ideas. To their credit, both candidates appear determined to square spending priorities with money on hand first, not the money they wish they had. Good. Showing you can handle the money you have lends credibility to the eventual request to taxpayers for more.
Is McKenna's plan overly optimistic? What's missing?
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
Postman On Politics