PubliCola No-Brainer #29: Yes on R-52

By PublicolaPicks October 6, 2010

Last week, we published 27 "No-Brainer" endorsements for the November 2 election. We realized, though, before we study up and make the rest of our endorsements, there are still a few obvious picks on the ballot. About five more to be exact.

(Yesterday's "No-Brainer"—we urged you to vote yes on King County Prop. 1, a 0.2 percent sales tax increase for public safety.)

Here's the second one:

PubliCola picks 'Yes' on R-52.

Democrats have been long on promises  for green public works projects that meet the challenge of global warming while creating jobs and stimulating the economy. In short: turning the current crisis into opportunity. They’ve been short on results.

R-52, which the Democratic state legislature sent to voters this November, changes all that.

The project: retrofit Washington State’s crumbling schools. Positive impacts? Thirty thousand jobs, a requirement for energy savings that will make the renovations financially and environmentally worthwhile, and a better learning environment for kids. Drawbacks? Um… yeah, we're drawing a blank.

R-52 requires the state to issue $505 million in bonds to school districts across the state through a competitive grants process for construction renovations. How does a school cash in on this money? By demonstrating that they’re going to renovate with sustainability front-and-center by meeting state law on "energy saving performance standards" which require “contracts for which payment is conditional on achieving contractually specified energy savings.”

The Northwest Energy Efficiency Coalition (a group of energy service companies, including Obama-knighted McKinstry)  says that with schools leveraging the money with their own local dollars (another key requirement of the grant process) we could spend upward of $2 billion on renovating schools. To clarify: Schools are renovated by people. At work. People at work. Thirty thousand people working at their jobs. According to the state's Office of Financial Management, the state will create and/or maintain 16 jobs for every million dollars we spend on public works projects like this one.

And since the project has to save money in energy costs, it doesn't only decrease our state's energy costs—it also means school districts that qualify are going to be spending less money turning the lights on and more on teachers and textbooks.

It's also good for the kids. A study by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction showed that 88 percent  of schools had one or more classrooms with higher-than-atmospheric levels of CO2, which induces sleepiness, lethargy, and a general disengagement from academics. And we thought we slept through 5th period because of a food-induced coma from cafeteria food. Nope. It turns out global warming is bad for school kids too, not just polar bears.

The few people with the gall to argue against such a clearly outstanding proposal (there is no formal opposition campaign) say that it raises the debt, which means that we pay more in interest. And those debt costs shake out to be less money we can spend on education: “Olympia should be reducing debt; higher debt costs mean less for core services,” says the voters’ guide statement against the referendum.

That’s what PubliCola calls circular logic. We shouldn’t leverage $505 million to get $2 billion in education spending, because if we do, we’ll have a little bit less money to spend on education? Seriously?

Thirty thousand jobs, better schools, and energy savings. No-Brainer.

PubliCola picks Yes on R-52.
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