S.B. 6116 needs to die once and for all

ED MURRAY SHOULD have his photo in the dictionary next to the word ironic. As the co-author of Senate Bill 6116, he wants to funnel $150 million to the U of W to help pay for the most lavish college stadium project in history. As the author of a newsletter that arrived Monday at the homes of his Seattle constituents, he warns with sincerity how the state's budget crisis threatens human services.

Senator Murray's newsletter runs six pages long. It totals several thousand words and features enough pie charts and graphs to make an accountant blush. It is, frankly, a truly thoughtful and detailed explanation of the state's ominous budget woes and the hard choices confronting our lawmakers in Olympia.

To drive home the severity of the budget situation, Murray talks about the very real notion of cutting health care coverage for low-income and disabled citizens by 40 percent. Such a cut, he writes, would mean "40,000 individuals in our communities would no longer have a viable option for receiving medical care. That's a crowd large enough to sell out Safeco Field," Murray says.

CRIMSON COMMENTARY

Safeco actually seats closer to 47,000, but Murray's point is well taken.

And the irony is downright painful.

At the same time the good senator chooses to use a sports stadium to help illustrate his point about the toll in human services that the budget shortfall could necessitate, he's out pushing a bill whose end result allows Tyee Club members to eat their water crackers and brie in state-of-the-art luxury boxes six or seven Saturdays every fall.

Not surprisingly, there's no mention of the Husky Stadium money grab in Murray's newsletter. The senator does, however, write about "mutual responsibility" and preserving the state's "core values" amid the economic hurricane.

"We can't let tough times become an excuse for sacrificing the things that matter most to our families – access to health care, protections for those who can't take care of themselves, and education for our children," Murray says.

So how, exactly, does funneling $150 million from taxpayers to Husky Stadium help in that process?

Granted, $150 million is a drop in the proverbial bucket given the state's $9 BILLION gap between revenue and expenses. But the guess here is that $150 million would be more than welcomed by the children, elderly, disabled and low-income citizens that Murray writes about.

S.B. 6116 has been doctored up with a variety of smoke screens. The bottom line, though, is that it's basically the Husky Stadium Bailout Bill.

At the moment, the legislation is being contemplated by the Senate Ways and Means Committee. If this panel gives it a green light, then it's on to the full Senate for consideration. Concerned citizens need to contact Way and Means Committee members right now to voice their disapproval, because the UW is strenuously lobbying for this boondoggle.

The reasons why all Washingtonians, Cougars and Huskies alike, should stand up against S.B. 6116 are numerous. Among them:

• The state is in a budgetary crisis that has serious repercussions for critical services.

• Because of the massive budget shortfall, the state is making dramatic cuts to higher education, with the results being increases in tuition and fees, reduced enrollment, and cuts in staffing.

• Husky Stadium is a revenue-producing facility which allows the UW many options to raise the necessary funds on its own. In fact, the UW already has a "Football Excellence Fee" it charges season ticketholders, but has chosen not to use those proceeds on Husky Stadium.

• Oregon State, Oregon, Stanford and Boise State have all renovated their stadiums with private funds. WSU and Cal are in the midst of renovations that are being fueled by private donations. The UW, with it huge alumni base, really has no reason at all to be drinking from the public trough when smaller schools have shown the appropriate way.

• The state has no business taking sides between Cougars and Huskies when both compete in the same conference. If lawmakers feel the need to donate $150 million to one for its stadium, then the rules of fair play suggests the other get $150 million as well.

Here is the link to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. It has all the contact information you need to make your voice heard.

And your voice does need to be heard. Because Sen. Murray apparently thinks he can pull a fast one, talking up threats to human services in his newsletter at the same time he's behind this brazen stadium plan.

To join the growing list of 3,000-plus who have signed on to the grassroots effort opposing the UW's money grab, head to the group's Facebook account.

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