PASCO -- Washington voters will have the chance in November to weigh in on a ballot measure that would increase the state's bonding capacity to pay for school updates and repairs.
The campaign to pass Referendum 52 kicked off in Eastern Washington on Wednesday with a news conference in front of Pasco High School.
"I think (the measure) is a win-win-win for jobs, the environment, and teachers and schools," said Sheila Stickel, campaign manager.
Proponents say it won't cost taxpayers more money and, in fact, will result in savings over the long run. It would create $505 million in bonding capacity, essentially allowing the state to borrow money it could pay back over time.
The money would be used to repair aging schools, with the fixes improving efficiency and resulting in significant energy, maintenance and operations savings, the campaign said.
The measure wouldn't create a new tax but would extend the existing tax on bottled water beyond 2013 to ensure the bonding capacity, the campaign said.
Schools would apply to receive money for repairs and upgrades. All the school districts in Washington would be eligible, along with universities and community colleges.
Schools would qualify only if the savings from the repairs -- such as to lighting or heating systems -- would equal or exceed construction costs, the campaign said.
Jim Timmons, who teaches economics at Washington State University Tri-Cities, said he has worked in other facilities that weren't in good shape.
"My students do better when they focus. The environment they're sitting in is an important factor," he said.
It distracts from learning if, for example, the temperature is too extreme or the air quality is poor, he said.
Supporters said the referendum would be good for schools, as well as for the economy, because it would create an estimated 30,000 construction jobs.
"It just makes common sense," Timmons said. "We should have been doing this long ago."
For more information, go to healthyschoolsforwa.org.
-- Sara Schilling: 582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org