Washington’s Growth Management Act (GMA) is so restrictive that some school districts can’t even find appropriate land for building new schools. In a way, the law is fulfilling its goal: to be greatly restrictive of growth. But as the state grows, new schools have to go somewhere.
Even many starry-eyed GMA fans recognize that killing off new schools takes things too far – and that voters are likely to disapprove. Legislators hammered out a bipartisan compromise bill, HB 1017, that would allow some schools to be built outside Urban Growth boundaries.
How bipartisan? It passed 81-15 in the House and 31-17 in the Senate. Many Democrats voted yes, with only the ones most beholden to radical environmental groups voting no.
When you read “radical environmental groups,” Gov. Jay Inslee likely sprang to mind. Inslee is famous for his global warming scaremongering, and for being chummy with the extreme end of environmental groups.
Given all that, the overwhelmingly bipartisan votes on the school siting bill meant nothing to Inslee. He vetoed much of the bill, crafting his veto so that the bill only applies to Pierce County. The Bethel School District there has been unable to build a new high school on 80 acres it owns outside an Urban Growth boundary and has limited options.
Inslee alleviated Bethel’s problem, but what about every other part of the state? Too bad so sad. Inslee’s environmental allies said no to GMA exceptions, not even for schools.
Inslee told reporters the possibility of the utilities being extended to new schools also being extended to housing developments justified his veto: “You just have to make sure the pipe is just big enough to serve the school and not some additional development that would otherwise contravene the value system that is in the Growth Management Act.”
Legislators, especially from rural areas, saw Inslee’s veto as further proof that the governor doesn’t make decisions with the entire state in mind. Rep. Bob McCaslin (R-Spokane Valley), the bill’s prime sponsor, said, “It’s a shame the governor, despite his continued talk of one Washington, is not serious about treating rural communities the same as urban communities.”
“I’m disappointed,” Sen. Hans Zeiger (R-Puyallup) told the News Tribune. “There are a lot of school districts out there that could use some new options.”
Though he called it “a huge step forward” for his district, even the superintendent of the school district Inslee singled out, Bethel, said other districts need help too. From the News Tribune:
“Still, Seigel said he would have liked to see Inslee sign off on the entire bill, which he said would have helped other districts struggling with the same issues. The Washington State School Directors’ Association estimates that 28 of the state’s 295 school districts face situations similar to Bethel’s due to the constraints of the Growth Management Act.”
Legislators say responding to Inslee’s partial veto with a new bill is unlikely this year. That will give them, and voters, plenty of time to contemplate yet another instance of Jay Inslee choosing his environmental allies over local communities.