Archive for the ‘Public Policy’ Category
Transportation is one of our top priorities. The North Spokane Corridor is the top-tier project, but other transportation improvements are just as important, like improvements to the Medical Lake and Geiger Road interchanges (needed to help in business recruitment on the West Plains), State Route 904 from Four Lakes to Cheney, improvements on Interstate 90 from Sullivan Road to the state line, and more.
We joined the Seattle Chamber of Commerce and other groups around the state to submit brief testimonials from our region on why the state legislature needs to pass a transportation budget. Here’s all the testimonials put together in one video:
Support a transportation package now from Seattle Metro Chamber on Vimeo.
Jay Allert, President of Aslin-Finch Company and Chair of our AgriBusiness Council, was one of two Spokane representatives featured in the video. Scott Morris, CEO of Avista, was the other.
Tell your state legislators to pass a transportation package by sending them this video or emailing them. The Seattle Chamber has a nice pre-written letter to make it easy. If you’d like to write you own letter, look up your elected officials on our policy website.
Thanks to the folks at the Seattle Chamber of Commerce for producing the video and distributing it.
April 26, 2013
WASHINGTON D.C. - Could there one day be a freeway that runs from Canada to Mexico and passes through Spokane? That idea is just a concept right now, but it was one idea presented alongside a number of other, more realistic ideas to staff members of various Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho elected officials on Friday.
Spokane transportation advocates pushed for federal support for the Inland Pacific Hub – a transportation-focused initiative made up of 19 regional counties that strives to expand the region’s transportation system to support economic development.
The Hub is made up of 21 regional partners from Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. Throughout the past five years, the regional partners have studied various transportation needs in the region to grow domestic and global commerce. Freight mobility transportation is the main benefactor of various projects, though all transportation users are considered.
The group has identified a number of key projects, some of which include the North Spokane Corridor completion, U.S. Highway 95 to Canada, upgrades to airport access infrastructure, truck routes through the region, and many more.
Projects that need expansion or widening would decrease the time it takes for freight to be transported to its destination, advocates say.
Washington Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) said a transportation package from the federal government impacts everybody and can improve domestic and international commerce.
“The reason we need to complete our transportation system is so we can compete in a twenty-first century economy,” he said.
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) echoed Heck’s sentiments and said she is working to prioritize transportation projects that move freight. The North Spokane Corridor and projects within the Inland Pacific Hub do just that.
Finding the funding, though can be difficult, given the current economic climate, a number of aids told a group from Greater Spokane Incorporated during the group’s annual “D.C. Fly-in,” which concluded Friday morning.
The annual D.C. Fly-in is planned through partnerships between Greater Spokane Incorporated, and the West Plains, Spokane Valley, Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene chambers of commerce.
April 25, 2013
WASHINGTON D.C. - Spokane civic leaders presented the region’s case for expanded graduate medical education Thursday to elected officials’ staff members as part of Greater Spokane Incorporated’s annual “D.C. Fly-in.”
With a new medical school at the Riverpoint Campus in Spokane and a new Pharmaceutical and Health Sciences building set to open this fall, the next step in expanding medical education is growing Graduate Medical Education (GME) slots in the region, civic leaders say.
The group presented the region’s position alongside Ashley Thompson of the American Hospital Association (AHA). In 1996, Congress put a cap on the amount of residency slots states are eligible for.
The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2013 was recently introduced by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Harry Reid (D-NV) and Charles Schumer (D-NY). The legislation would create 15,000 residency slots (3,000 per year for five years), though there is a big roadblock.
“Funding is the issue,” Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) said earlier this week.
Residency slots are funded through Medicare, and reductions in Medicare funding impacts GME.
The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2013 would make new medical schools with a rural location focus (like WSU Spokane) a priority, if it can pass. The amount of residency slots in Central and Eastern Washington is well below the national average.
Group Meets at Pentagon to Discuss Fairchild Air Force Base
A small group met with officials from the United States Air Force on Thursday to discuss Fairchild Air Force Base’s candidacy for being the Main Operating Base for the new KC-46A tankers. As reported yesterday, the Air Force’s initial recommendation has been delayed. The recommendation is now expected sometime in mid-May.
The Air Force will make its recommendation and the chosen site will undergo an Environmental Impact Study before an absolute decision is determined.
This annual advocacy trip to Washington D.C. is planned through a partnership between Greater Spokane Incorporated and the West Plains, Spokane Valley, Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene chambers of commerce.
April 24, 2013 – UPDATED, APRIL 29, 10:07 A.M.*
WASHINGTON D.C. – Finding a solution to the sequestration issue won’t be easy and its impact on the Spokane region could be felt if Congress can’t resolve the loss of funding, a group of Spokane and Northern Idaho civic leaders were told Wednesday.
Forty business, community and higher education leaders are in Washington D.C. for the Spokane region’s annual advocacy trip. The group met Wednesday with all federal elected officials from the region, save for Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), who was preoccupied with a meeting with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
“This is the current crisis,” Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) told the group, when talking about sequestration.
The Spokane area is greatly impacted by sequestration cuts to the air traffic control towers at Spokane International Airport and Felts Field. Civic leaders say those cuts harm public safety and jobs. Reversing the sequester cuts will take some sort of legal challenge.
“The way the sequester was drafted, these are across the board cuts,” said Shawn Bills, Legislative Director for Senator Murray. Bills went on to say that the sequestration legislation mandated certain cuts. A legal challenge to reverse those cuts is pending.
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) says the biggest and obvious question among members of Congress and especially members of the Washington delegation is simple: Why?
McMorris Rodgers said air traffic controllers are deemed “essential employees” during government shut downs – meaning those people remain on the job during shut downs for public safety reasons.
“I think across the board, this is not the way we want to go forward,” she said.
*UPDATE: The United States Congress voted late in the week to reverse the furloughs handed out to air traffic controllers, meaning Spokane’s Felts Field and Spokane International Airport’s control towers will remain on regular hours.
KC-46A Tanker Decision Delayed
McMorris Rodgers herself and members of her staff said the U.S. Air Force’s decision on where to base the first round of KC-46A tankers has been delayed. The decision was to be announced May 1, but the Washington Republicans said that decision has been “pushed back.” A new date was not given.
All members of the Washington federal delegation are supportive of Fairchild Air Force Base’s attempt to receive the new tankers.
McMorris Rodgers said the Air National Guard is pushing for the new tankers to be based at a site where there is a Classic Association between an active duty wing and the Air National Guard. Fairchild Air Force Base fits that request perfectly. It features a Classic Association between the 92nd Air Refueling Wing and the 141st Washington Air National Guard Air Refueling Wing.
A small group from the Spokane and Northern Idaho group will meet Thursday with U.S. Air Force officials at the Pentagon.
This annual advocacy trip to Washington D.C. is planned through a partnership between Greater Spokane Incorporated, and the West Plains, Spokane Valley, Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene chambers of commerce.
April 23, 2013
WASHINGTON D.C. - Scheduling a meeting with a federal elected official is difficult. Scheduling meetings with more than five federal elected officials is even more difficult. A group of 40 Spokane and Northern Idaho civic leaders accomplished the latter as the annual Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI) “D.C. Fly-in” kicks off Wednesday and continues through Friday morning.
The group is here to advocate for Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, and sending 40 area leaders signals to lawmakers that the Spokane and Northern Idaho regions are focused and unified.
The group has meetings scheduled Wednesday with Senators Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch. It also has meetings with Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Raul Labrador. All of those meetings are designed for the lawmakers to hear from their constituents and for the group to advocate for the region.
The main topics and projects to be discussed this week include Fairchild Air Force Base; transportation projects like the North Spokane Corridor, Interstate 90 and the Inland Pacific Hub (a group of transportation projects in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho); and Graduate Medical Education (GME) at the Riverpoint Campus in Spokane.
Fairchild Air Force Base is among the final four bases being considered to be the first base to receive the new KC-46A tankers later this decade. The U.S. Air Force is expected to announce its decision on May 1. A small group will meet with Air Force Officials on Thursday.
Transportation projects will take center stage when a small group meets with Victor Mendez, the Administrator for the Federal Highway Administration on Thursday. The North Spokane Corridor has been the main topic for a number of years during GSI’s D.C. Fly-in, though this year the corridor is grouped with other transportation projects called the aforementioned Inland Pacific Hub.
The Hub is a collaboration of common transportation projects in the Spokane area and Northern Idaho that would strengthen domestic and international commerce. The projects include the North Spokane Corridor, expansion of U.S. 95 toward Canada, improvements along U.S. 195 between Lewiston, Idaho and Spokane, widening I-90 through Spokane and Kootenai counties, and more.
The time has come yet again for Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho business, community and higher education leaders to head to Washington D.C. for the annual advocacy trip. This year, our roster is 40 people strong, our agenda is full, and our presence will definitely be known in Washington D.C.
The timeliest item on our agenda is, of course, the KC-46A tankers. As you may or may not know, our very own Fairchild Air Force Base is among the final four bases being considered to be the Main Operating Base for the new fleet of tankers. The Air Force is expected to announce its decision May 1. Being selected would be huge for Fairchild and our region. New tankers could help preserve the base for many years to come. We’ll have a small group meet with Air Force officials while we’re in D.C. to talk about Fairchild’s advantages.
Another item on our agenda the federal government has its hands in is the North Spokane Corridor. About half the total length of the corridor is usable, and we’re looking to collect the funds in order to complete the long-awaited highway. Other transportation projects, such as a number of I-90 improvements, are also on our agenda. We will be meeting with representatives from the Department of Transportation during our trip.
An interstate transportation project that we’ll also advocate for is the Inland Pacific Hub, a partnership of public and private sector representatives from 19 counties in Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington. The Hub will move the region to a multi-modal gateway to increase domestic and international commerce. The group in D.C. will advocate for federal support.
Last Friday, nine fourth-year medical students (above) at WSU Spokane found out where they would be starting their residencies. Six of those nine students began their medical education studies in Spokane in 2009. It was a momentous day, as the students now know where the next stage of their education will take place.
Residencies – what medical students complete after four years of medical school, also known as graduate medical education – are something this region needs more of. With an aging population, there is a need for more doctors, especially in rural areas. That’s where the Academic Health Science Center comes in.
Spokane’s medical community transformation began in 2008 when the first class of medical students began at WSU Spokane through the WWAMI program. It continued when the big Biomedical and Health Sciences Building broke ground in late 2011 (the building will be complete this fall). It will progress again this fall when the first class of second-year students begins classes.
Now it’s time to grow residency slots.
Doctors tend to practice in the city where they completed their residency. Currently, Central and Eastern Washington have 100 residency slots, compared to 1,517 in Western Washington. There are obvious population discrepancies between Western Washington and the rest of the state, but in Central and Eastern Washington, there are 6.8 medical residents per 100,000 people – much less than the national average of 35.7 medical residents per 100,000 people (for the sake of fairness, Western Washington’s medical residents per 100,000 people is 29.8).
Our region clearly needs more residency slots to keep pace with the doctor shortage. More doctors in our region lead to better care and a better economy. We are leading the push for expanded graduate medical education alongside a number of community partners by meeting with our leaders at the federal level.
Transforming the medical community is something this community deserves. With around 33,000 people working in the health care sector in the region, a four-year medical school and more opportunity for residencies fits well in Spokane.
Learn more at www.morethanamedicalschool.com
By now, you’ve heard about STEM Education. Advancing STEM Education reforms is something Greater Spokane Incorporated has been involved in for the past few years, along with a number of regional partners.
Praising the virtues of STEM Education is one thing, but getting reforms enacted is another, and the ultimate goal of “STEM Madness” is to grow the number of graduates with STEM-related degrees, thus helping our region and state (and nation, too) fill STEM-related jobs.
So what’s happened, recently?
Well, we’ve just started the back nine of the legislative session in Olympia, and STEM Education is on the minds of lawmakers – especially Governor Jay Inslee, if his Inaugural Address is any indication. Washington STEM even called Inslee “The STEM Governor Washington State Needs.”
But words in an Inaugural Address are one thing, while taking action is another. Governor Inslee showed that he would back up his praise of STEM Education when he testified in support of a bill in the House that would create a STEM Education Innovation Alliance to serve as an advisory council to the governor.
Another bill in the legislature would require high school and school district boards to deem AP computer science courses as equivalent to math or science classes. The Spokesman-Review recently editorialized in favor of mandating more STEM courses for high school graduation. Many STEM courses – like computer programming – only count as electives (we saw how cool computer programming is here). (more…)
*Updated in response to comment – 2:33 p.m., Feb. 8
It is special election season, as Spokane residents will turn in their ballots no later than Feb. 12. There are three items on the ballot, and we took a position on one of them recently.
Proposition 3 – commonly known as the Library Levy in Spokane – calls for a seven-cent increase in the levy amount applied to property tax, meaning citizens would pay $3.08 per $1,000 of assessed value on their property. This increase would expire in four years (read about the proposition in the Spokane Voters’ Guide).
We support the library levy because its passage would mean the Hillyard and East Central branches would remain open, providing access to resources for those looking for a job, those looking for a quiet place to work, those looking to use the Internet and a lot more.
Libraries are places of learning. Allowing our libraries to close lessens the educational value of our area. A region is often judged by what its priorities are. Education is a priority for us, and a vote for Proposition 3 is a vote for education and our region’s well-being.
Some of the many activities libraries here provide are after school and summer reading programs. Would we want to take away those programs for the kids in the Hillyard and East Spokane areas? Of course not.
January 25, 2013
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Today ends the annual advocacy trip area business, educational and community leaders from Spokane take to Olympia each year. The 87-person delegation met with lawmakers and Governor Jay Inslee from across the state, talking about issues important to the Spokane region.
The group heads home today after a breakfast meeting with Associate Justice Debra Stephens of Spokane Valley. Justice Stephens was appointed to the State Supreme Court in 2008 by Governor Gregoire.
Time to empty the notebook:
- Of the 87 delegates, 17 were from the K-12 education sector, the most represented sector on the trip. With the State Supreme Court’s ruling last year saying the state isn’t funding K-12 education enough – thus violating the State Constitution – K-12 education leaders made sure their voices were heard.
- The top two issues this session – as far as the Spokane area is concerned – seems to be how the state will fund K-12 education and a number of transportation projects. In order to fund those transportation projects, there needs to be some sort of revenue package. While no lawmakers indicated that they are opposed to a revenue package for transportation, there were some differences in how that revenue was to be collected. A gas tax is one option that has been floated. Another option is to collect an incremental increase in the gas tax through the next few years while reforming business regulations to save money. With the session concluding just its second week, it remains to be seen what solution will come forth.
- Back to the topic of K-12 education: Representative Richard DeBolt (R – Chehalis) told the Spokane delegation that he favors a separate K-12 education budget to be funded prior to any other budget (like the capital budget, for example). That’s an idea that has been proposed before, mostly after the aforementioned Supreme Court decision last year. DeBolt said he and others have been an advocate for a separate K-12 budget for a number of years, but only after the Court’s decision did it get a hearing.
- Senator Mark Schoesler (R – Ritzville) said he has four numbers in mind: 0, 4, 21 and 105. Those numbers represent his goal that the state have zero deficits, four years of balanced budgets, a 21st-century education system and adjourn in 105 days.
- The Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) system that is managed by the state is rumored to be in jeopardy due to the state’s $900 million budget shortfall. Senator Andy Billig (D – Spokane) told the Spokane delegation that GET is not the problem, rather, rising tuition at our public universities is.
- Governor Jay Inslee hosted the delegation at his residence Thursday evening and it just so happened to be “National Gonzaga Day.” Mayor David Condon presented Governor Inslee with some Gonzaga gear earlier in the day, and Inslee showed it off to the delight of his house guests: