Sen. Ranker, a frequent reader of this blog, saw that I had already reported on Sen. Ericksen and Rep. Lytton’s legislative efforts so he decided to head me off at the pass and sit down for a short interview. Ranker spoke as he drove back to Olympia for another week of legislative wrangling.
“This year, I have a laser-like focus on two issues; women’s health and higher-ed.” Appropriate considering the number of colleges in his district. He wryly notes that he was on the higher-education committee for almost twenty-four hours before he was reassigned. However it was worth it because now Sen. Ranker sits on the mighty Ways and Means committee, and one of the first battles he will face is protecting the GET program.
GET stands for Guaranteed Educational Tuition and the way it works is that you can pay into it at any point and basically buy a coupon for a certain amount of tuition, however it is at today’s tuition prices. You could then redeem it for that many credits, years down the line at any of the state colleges. It is a pretty straightforward program that allows parents to reserve some college money for their kids. Recently, the state Republicans have been attacking the program as financially unstable. “The Republicans have got bad data,” Ranker said. “The program will be back in the black real soon. Look, the Republicans like to say that this program is only for the wealthy, but it’s not. It is a tool for middle and lower class families to ensure that college is an option for their kids.” Ranker notes that he has purchased some for his kids and he doesn’t make very much at all.
What do you think of the proposed deal offered by the Council of University Presidents that would freeze tuition rates for two years in return for a $225 million dollar investment from the state in the big six public colleges in Washington (WSU, UW, EWU, CWU, WWU, Evergreen). “It is a realistic and fair proposal. I appreciate the presidents doing whatever it takes to stop tuition increases.”
What about the legal mandate to fund K-12 education in this state? “It is my understanding that the Republicans are talking about a minuscule $400-$500 million on education which does not meet our court ordered and legally required obligation to the schools,” said Ranker. The courts have estimated it will require just a little more than one billion dollars to adequately fund our educational system in Washington.
He name-checked his seatmate Rep. Kris Lytton, crediting her leadership on a number of educational bills. “I don’t think anyone knows these issues better than her.”
As for Women’s health, Sen. Ranker is once again filling his role as an advocate on these issues. “Part of the bargain for the Republican control of the Senate was ‘no positive women’s health bills off the floor.’ Yet with the implementation of Affordable Care Act, this could take our funding for women’s health backwards. Defense in this case means offense. It is time for the Reproductive Parity Act.” I will be getting into this issue more in tomorrow’s post: Reproductive Struggles in Olympia.
Finally, it wouldn’t be Sen. Ranker if he wasn’t pushing green jobs. This year’s effort is overhauling the Toxic Substances Fund. This program was created by a tax, usually on refineries, of any business that first handles a toxic substance. That money would then be used to clean up toxic waste sites around the state. Except the process has ground to an agonizingly slow pace. It took the Port of Bellingham six years to get a single site approved and they have six more sites that could potentially apply for funds. Sen. Ranker’s bill (SB5201) would streamline the process, allowing 24 sites to get cleaned up in the next 4-20 months. This effort is already paid for, it is just a matter of clearing the way for green jobs, environmental clean-up and the resulting economic growth.