North Notes
Spokane North Rotary Club Bulletin
July 25, 2016
          Congrats: Past –president Lenore Romney was presented with a Paul Harris Plus One award by President Nancy Hanson.  The basic Harris Awards signify donations of $1,000 to Rotary International.  “She’s doubled down,” Hanson said of Romney.
          Sure things: Death, taxes…and Joel: Maybe club member Joel San Nicolas could make a living playing raffles.  Not only did he win the July 25 club drawing (again), but at a recent party night at Arbor Crest Winery he won a putting contest, which got him into a drawing to play at the Mercedes-Benz golf tournament pro-am in Bend, Ore..  Naturally, Joel won the drawing.
          Save the dates: Mike Payson of Spokane Valley Rotary, the assistant district governor for Area 8 in District 5080, will visit our club Aug. 8 and District 5080 Gov. Kees van der Pol, of the Nakusp Rotary, will visit the club Aug. 22.
If a state issue is big, WPC has a policy for it
          For a government watchdog agency like the Washington Policy Center, there is no shortage of things to watch.
          The self-described “non-profit, non-partisan, independent think tank” focuses on issues involving education, government reform, health care, small business, the environment, transportation and has just added agriculture as an area of emphasis.
          On July 25, Chris Cargill, WPC’s Eastern Washington Office Director, outlined the agency’s hot topic list.  With him were Madilynne Clark of the Tri-Cities, WPC’s new agriculture policy research director, and Maggie Douglas, a GU senior and WPC research assistant.  She previously was an intern in U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ office.
          The Seattle-based, business-friendly WPC lists 28 directors, including Spokanites, George Nethercutt, Anne Cowles and Heidi Stanley, plus Wayne Williams of Liberty Lake, Robert Tippett of Pasco and Roger Bowlin of Chelan.  The agency’s advisory board includes Pete Stanton, Tyrus Tenold and 15 others from the Spokane area.
          Cargill, who noted he visited the club a year ago, said the WPC operates with 17 offices statewide on a $2.7 million annual budget.
          He offered copies of WPC’s policy guide, noting it is “275 pages of light reading, down from 400 pages” in the previous tome.
          As a good watchdog, Cargill said eight state legislators missed more than 50 votes in the last session, but 89 legislators didn’t miss any votes.  Most of those missing votes, he said, were from western Washington.
          Part of the legislative challenge, he adds, is the slim majorities.  The State Senate has a 26-23 Republican majority, while the State House has a 50-48 Democratic majority.
          Among the hot-button issues:
          Funding for K-12 education and charter schools.  The State Supreme Court has mandated additional funding and has kept jurisdiction in its “McCleary case” decision.
          Even with the state biennial budget expected to grow to $41 billion from $38.2 billion, how much money for schools and where it comes from, are persistent dilemmas.  Side issues include using school district levies to supplement salaries and whether lottery proceeds can continue to fund charter schools, Cargill said.  He adds that while 42 states have charter schools, Washington is the only one where the funding mechanism has been ruled unconstitutional, mostly because the schools have no teacher unions.
         Cargill said among the plans floating to solve education funding are a “levy swap,” substituting a statewide levy for those in individual districts; an income tax on high-wage earners (but even the federal income tax started just on high-wage earners); and, a “third camp” that says we already spend enough on K-12 education – the problem is where and how the dollars are spent.
         Raising minimum wages.  While Seattle and Tacoma have approved graduated increases to $15 an hour, the state average is $9.47 an hour, Cargill said.  An initiative proposes to raise that to $13.50 an hour, but other issues abound, including whether to count tips and whether to have a lower “training wage” for teens, who otherwise might be shut out of entry-level jobs.
         Transportation funding. The 5-cent a gallon tax increase which started July 1, the last part of a 12-cent staged increase, raises Washington’s fuel tax to 49.5 cents a gallon, Cargill said.  Adding the federal tax of 18.5 cents a gallon, the total is 68 cents, and seemingly leaves little room for more increases to repair, replace and expand roadways and bridges.
          Super-majority approval of tax increases.  Cargill noted that Washington voters six times have strongly supported having two-thirds, or other super-majority legislative votes to increase taxes.  He said recent surveys indicate 65 percent approval for a state constitutional amendment to make a super-majority a necessity.  He adds there also is some sentiment for a “watered-down” version of 60 percent legislative approval.
          Introducing the new WPC emphasis on agriculture, Maddy Clark said her dad was a veterinarian and she “grew up behind the cow, helping to birth calves at 2 in the morning.”  A graduate of Oregon State and Colorado State, she has managed ag commissions the past two years.
          Her goal, Clark said, is “to connect people with agriculture.”  Washington has 300 crops -- “it’s not just cows and plows” -- and the ag industry employs 160,000 people, she said.
          Asked about the WPC’s stance on immigration issues, Cargill and Clark demurred, saying they were just getting into research on the issue.  “You are not the first to ask the question,” she said.
The bulletin producers:
          Bulletin editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink
          Photos: Eric Johnson
          Program coordinator: Brad Stark