In the heat of election season, it’s easy to lose sight of the facts. We’ve been researching and writing about energy efficiencies for buildings (especially in schools) for a couple years now. As voters consider the many ballot measures this year, it’s worth one more run through of Referendum 52 and why it’s so important:
Saving money and reducing waste. Our research has found that the projects funded by Referendum 52 will create real energy savings, taking dollars off the energy bill and putting it back into education. Projects are chosen wisely, because Referendum 52 uses the principles of performance contracting, under which energy efficiencies save enough money to pay for themselves. And since schools apply for R-52 money, they get to decide which projects make the most sense for their district.
Making schools healthier better places to learn. Efficiency projects often bring benefits beyond the energy bill by improving air quality and lighting in the classroom. Plus, investing in energy projects will help eliminate maintenance backlogs so facilities crews can get projects done.
Water in plastic bottles. Passage of Referendum 52 would extend an existing sales tax on water in plastic bottles. This tax does not fund Referendum 52 and even if that tax were repealed by another initiative, the state keeps the authority to sell General Obligation bonds.
Insulation doesn’t install itself. Passing R-52 will start creating jobs right away, especially in the hard hit construction sector. The economy is still struggling, but Referendum 52 will make a difference by funding “shovel ready” projects that save money and improve school learning environments.
Borrowing wisely for the future. Referendum 52 will allow the state to borrow wisely for the future of schools and children in our state. The amount of borrowing is tiny, and will have zero effect on the state’s credit rating. Consider this graph.
That thin little line at the top is the borrowing for Referendum 52. The amount of revenue generated from the sales tax on bottled water and savings in school construction far exceeds the payments the state will have to make. That’s why the State Treasurer supports Referendum 52, calling it a smart idea.
Washington State’s credit is excellent, and it will stay excellent after the passage of Referendum 52. Why? Even though Referendum 52 borrows money on the bond market Washington’s percentage of debt service to total operating budget actually will go down over the coming years. Right now that percentage is around 4.6 percent based on numbers from 2008. In the coming years it will drop, based on our analysis, to about 4.3 percent. Moody’s already considers Washington state to have a very small percentage of general fund dollars going to service debt, and it’s only going to get better.
So there you go. Those are the facts and figures: R-52 improves our schools without raising taxes or putting our state’s credit at risk; creates local jobs; and saves our schools money while making them better places to learn.