The availability of quality public higher education is important for the children of Washington, and an important economic driver for our business community. Our legislators should undertake initiatives to generally increase the amount of revenue available to state government, and specifically, the restoration of lost funding for public colleges and universities. General fund support for our public colleges and universities has fallen 16.49 percent since 2006-07 and Washington spends less on public higher education than Alabama -- that's just not right.
Middle class kids are the ones who are losing out when the Legislature shifts the cost of operating a quality public university system from the state to students. Rising tuition costs and other user fees make it virtually impossible for many students from middle-class families to graduate from one of our public institutions of higher education without a significant, if not crushing, student loan burden.
Of course, reversing this trend requires resources. As an old man, I believe in my right to petition the government and try to exercise it regularly. For a couple of years, I have pitched the concept of levying a $25 tax on every tax parcel in the state, with the proceeds going solely to reduce tuition costs for Washington students at our public colleges and universities. This concept should actually appeal to Republican legislators as it is a flat tax -- every tax parcel pays the same. Also, folks who pay it can deduct the amount from their federal income taxes (thus shifting some costs of operating our schools to the federal government). This tax amounts to $2 and pennies per month. It is unlikely to drive any of my fellow seniors out of their homes, and could substantially benefit a lot of deserving kids.
I know ... nobody wants to support a tax increase -- especially not here in the desert metropolis. But, we need to face the fact that it takes resources to run a civilized society, and accessible public higher education is an important foundation of any such society, as well as being probably the greatest class-leveler going.
--ERIC NORDLOF, Kennewick