Hard to believe, given the budget crisis the state faces, but politics-as-usual is winning in Olympia. With the aid of out-of-touch Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Margarita Prentice, Sen. Ed Murray on Saturday ram-rodded S.B. 6116 – the appropriately nicknamed Husky Stadium Bailout Bill – through the Ways and Means Committee. The measure, co-authored by Murray and Jeanne Kohl-Welles, now heads to the Rules Committee for a once-over before moving on to the full Senate for a vote.
But Sens. Murray and Prentice, career politicians whose forte is deal making, not good government, did what their kind love to do: Put a gun to the head of colleagues with lesser power and tell them that if they want funding for pet projects in their districts then they sure as hell better go along with the broader agenda. In this case, that means having taxpayers fund 50 percent of the most lavish stadium project in college football history.
Whether through arm-twisting or actual belief that $150 million for Husky Stadium is the right message to send taxpayers when basic human services are facing the budget ax, Murray and Prentice managed to get the following Ways and Means members to join their boondoggle. Let's dub it the Roll Call of Shame:
Karen Fraser (Olympia / Lacey / Tumwater); Joseph Zarelli (Camas / Castle Rock); Mike Hewitt (Walla Walla / Pasco / Eureka); Steve Hobbs (Marysville / Snohomish / Mill Creek); Karen Keiser (Sea Tac / Des Moines / Kent); Adam Kline (Renton / Madrona); Jeanne Kohl-Welles (Seattle); Joe McDermott (West Seattle / Vashon Island); Linda Evans Parlette (Mazama / Winthrop); Cheryl Pflug (Snoqualmie / North Bend / Maple Valley); Craig Pridemore (Vancouver / Walnut Grove); Debbie Regala (Fife); Phil Rockefeller (Poulsbo / Bainbridge Island / Kingston).
Particularly galling are the votes of Sens. Hewitt, Zarelli, Pflug and Parlette. All have wrapped themselves in the "no new taxes" banner this legislative session, yet here they are playing footsy with the Montlake crowd.
I encourage you to remember these names during election season.
But more than that, I encourage you to keep fighting, because this crazy game the Huskies and their water-carriers are playing isn't over yet. There are four chances left to stop this irresponsible use of public funds: In the Senate Rules Committee; on the full Senate floor; in the House Ways and Means Committee; and on the full House floor.
So call and write to these elected officials today. There are three key messages to share.
First, Husky Stadium is a revenue-producing facility which allows the UW many options to raise the necessary funds on its own.
Second, Oregon State, Oregon, Stanford and Boise State have all renovated their stadiums with private funds, and 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.
Third, 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.
Time is of the essence. All Cougars – and all citizens concerned with good government and sound public policy – need to rise up and smite the business-as-usual politicians who are trying to slip a fast one by us.
Call and write today. Here is the link to find your representatives in the House and Senate. It has all the contact information you need to make your voice heard. In addition, a note to the Senate Rules Committee would be good. Here's the link to their names and contact information.
To stay fully abreast of every twist and turn in this saga, join the growing list of 3,000-plus who have signed on to our grassroots effort opposing the UW's money grab. Head to the group's Facebook account.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Glenn Osterhout is WSU graduate who is helping spearhead the grassroots effort encouraging the UW to fund their stadium the old fashioned way, and not with taxpayers' money.