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Monday, February 26, 2024
Feb. 26, 2024

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Probst bills aim to end chronic state budget crises with help for education, business


State Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, has introduced a series of jobs bills aimed at curing some of the state’s economic ailments.

While the rushed special session this month has focused on addressing the symptoms of the recession — mainly offsetting a $2 billion revenue shortfall — Probst said he wanted to file legislation that would target digging out of what has become chronic budget crises since 2008.

By directing energy to low and no-cost measures to improve education and business in the state, Probst said Washington is more likely to emerge from a disheartening cycle of service and staffing cuts.

“The goal of this work was to identify how the state can do its job better and create a more competitive economy for the long term without spending millions of dollars to make it happen,” Probst said.

The Career Pathways Act, House Bill 2170, would mandate career exploration from the sixth grade through high school. It would spotlight careers that don’t require a four-year degree as much as college-bound pathways, Probst said.

“It highlights the value and dignity of all careers, not only university level careers,” Probst said. “It also promotes strong local connections between businesses and schools and promotes the development of programs of study in high schools.”

Kris Sork, spokesperson for Vancouver Public Schools, declined to provide information about what career exploration is currently available to students in the district because she said she didn’t want the comments to be construed as political support or opposition of the bill.

Under House Bill 2171, state agencies would be required to come up with strategic plans for creating middle income jobs. House Bill 2172 would create a new position of small business advocate in the Office of Regulatory Assistance. House Bill 2173 encourages the use of lean manufacturing, which seeks to make products with minimal waste of time and materials.

The four bills have received bipartisan sponsorship from several House members, including Rep. Ann Rivers, R-La Center. The legislation isn’t expected to go to committee until the regular session begins Jan. 9.

Rivers said the bills would likely evolve during committee meetings to address concerns such as increasing workloads for school districts by requiring career exploration.

“I would like to see Education Service Districts take more of a role in this,” Rivers said.

However, Rivers said the bills set a tone for innovation in the regular session.

“That’s definitely the tone and timbre: thinking outside the box because that’s what people in this state need us to be doing right now,” Rivers said.

Tim Welch, a spokesman for the Washington Federation of State Employees, said he had not yet combed through the jobs bills but was encouraged by the spirit of innovation in Olympia.

“Anything there to create jobs is a good thing,” Welch said. “I think the bills are on the right track. We need to create jobs, not just cut services.”

Probst said the ideas for the legislation came from constituent meetings last summer. In the fall, Probst conducted an informal survey of his constituents in the 17th Legislative District to find out which of the measures are a priority. The district is east of Interstate 205 west of Camas and south of Battle Ground.

Out of 90 respondents, 45 percent said economic recovery through education was a priority. Forty percent chose career exploration in middle school and high school. About 28 percent cited economic recovery through a spirit of cooperation between businesses and state regulators, timely and predictable permitting and lean manufacturing techniques.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://www.twitter.com/Col_Trends; http://www.facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com