Olympia voters know Initiative 1 is the right thing to do by creating an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few — in fact, a recent poll by Patinkin Research Strategies on behalf of Opportunity for Olympia shows more than 60 percent of us support this citizen-led proposal.
Initiative 1 provides our students with more opportunities to succeed through access to community college and job training. And it ensures the wealthiest 3 percent pay their fair share, without increasing fees for city services or burdening low- and middle-income families. Olympia will become a better place to live, to open a business or to raise a family.
Higher education is increasingly out of reach for many of Olympia’s hard-working families; community college tuition has skyrocketed by more than 350 percent since 1980. Back then, it cost just $880 (adjusted for inflation) for tuition at a community college in Washington. Today, tuition and fees at South Puget Sound Community College exceed $4,100.
We have to reverse this trend. Local teachers and members of the Olympia Education Association say Initiative 1’s free year of tuition for all high school graduates will help raise graduation rates and put students on the path to success.
We have more wealth inequality than before the Great Depression. Initiative 1’s small excise tax on the wealthiest 3 percent of households would counter this inequality, but ultra-conservative groups such as the Freedom Foundation oppose this progress in favor of reinforcing the power and privilege of the wealthy few.
Now these opponents are countering Initiative 1 with scare tactics about costs and lawsuit threats — part of their usual playbook to defeat progressive initiatives. But this should not keep Olympia’s voters from doing the right thing. And it won’t deter Opportunity for Olympia’s backers from funding a winning defense of its initiative in court after it is voted into law by the people.
Washington’s employers project 740,000 new job openings during the next five years. Olympia can be home to more of these jobs, but only if we provide our students with the skills they need to compete. Let’s give Olympia’s young people an advantage to seek those jobs and ensure our economic legacy.
More than a dozen Olympia small businesses, like Terry’s Automotive and Olympia Framemakers, support Yes on Initiative 1. Business leaders know a well-trained workforce attracts more employers, which means more customers, a growing economy and a better opportunity for everyone. It is truly an opportunity for Olympia. That’s why thousands of Olympia residents put Initiative 1 on the ballot and will vote Yes this November.
Sam Hunt is a former North Thurston school board member and current Democratic state representative serving Olympia and the 22nd Legislative District. Clark Gilman is a para-educator with North Thurston Public Schools and member of the Olympia City Council.