Thirty-five years ago, in the Washington Roundtable’s inaugural year, then-chairman George H. Weyerhaeuser wrote, “Our purpose is to work to improve the future of the state of Washington.” Three and a half decades later, the Washington Roundtable is more focused than ever on making this state a better place to live, work, and do business.
Today, we release our 2018 Chair’s Report, our annual assessment of progress on state policy issues that our members believe matter most. In the report, Roundtable Chair Betsy Cowles writes about the two areas where we have focused most of our energy over the last year: promoting statewide economic growth and preparing Washington’s young people for success in their home state.
Four headlines from this year’s Chair’s Report:
- A postsecondary credential—such as a degree, apprenticeship, or certificate—is essential to compete for most jobs available in our state. In 2015, we set a goal that, by the high school class of 2030, 70 percent of Washington high school students will go on to attain a postsecondary credential by age 26. It is estimated that only 40 percent of our high school students hit that benchmark today. Drastically increasing enrollment of high school graduates into postsecondary programs at two- and four-year institutions is essential to reaching the 70 percent goal. To that end, lawmakers this year increased funding for the State Need Grant, a financial aid program for low-income students, and expanded eligibility for the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship and College Bound Scholarship programs.
- Lawmakers took multiple steps toward promoting diversified and inclusive growth. Lawmakers enacted legislation requiring adoption of rules for the use of mass timber products for new building construction, which has the potential to catalyze manufacturing and spur job creation in rural areas. Additionally, the Legislature created a program to provide scholarships to rural students pursuing postsecondary education in high-demand fields and invested in a statewide tourism marketing fund focused in part on rural, tourism-dependent counties.
- The McCleary ruling is now resolved. We applaud lawmakers for their tenacity and commitment to provide better educational supports for Washington students. This year, they made adjustments to the 2017 McCleary package, including providing full funding for school employees in 2018-19. The Supreme Court responded positively, and the legal phase is now complete. On to pursuing better outcomes for all kids.
- The state resolved key rural water rights issues. Lawmakers came to an agreement to address the water rights issues that arose from a 2016 Supreme Court ruling in the Hirst case. The state also committed to appropriating $300 million for water mitigation projects through 2033.
Click here to read the full report. Thank you, Chairman Cowles, for your leadership this year and your commitment to making Washington a better place to live, work, and do business.