December 2, 2019
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Lands commissioner proposes insurance surcharge to fight wildfires

State officials are proposing a $5 surcharge for property and casualty insurance premiums to create a new funding source to fight forest fires, The Seattle Times reports.

State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and some Democratic lawmakers are making a push for new revenue, and a reliable funding stream, reporter Joseph O'Sullivan writes.

The money would support forest-health projects, programs for landowners in fire-prone areas, and more firefighters and fire engines.

The proposal would create an account in the state budget dedicated to wildfire prevention and preparedness. It would raise about $126 million over the two-year budget cycle. By comparison, from 2013 to 2018 it cost about $153 million a year in state and federal money to fight wildfires in Washington.

Franz acknowledged that creating new revenue could be a hard sell in the upcoming legislative session, where lawmakers won't draft a brand-new budget.

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Cross-laminated timber can help the Northwest lead on the Green New Deal

By Seattle City Councilmember Abel Pacheco and his director of communications, Conor Bronsdon

We live in a region of pioneers and conservationists in a land built on the back of the timber industry. The idea of sustainable working forests fits not just our historical industrial strengths, it fits our regional ethos. In the Pacific Northwest, we want to live green. It's time for Seattle to take the lead on mass timber. With cross-laminated timber (CLT) and other mass timber products we can move to solve our housing crisis, develop needed density, and address climate change -- all while staying true to our regional culture and history.

By using CLT in the development of much-needed housing we will actively remove and store carbon from the atmosphere -- every cubic meter of timber growth captures one ton of carbon from the atmosphere. Construction would simultaneously emit less carbon.

Encouraging CLT usage could also jump-start stalled rural economies that have languished since the logging industry slowed down. Construction startup Katerra opened the nation's largest capacity CLT manufacturing facility in Spokane and Vaagen Brothers Lumber, which has been in Washington for four generations, is expanding CLT production operations in Colville. With the state making code changes fall that allow for the use of mass timber in buildings as tall as 18 stories, the region is primed to use CLT to address our affordable housing crisis.

Read the full op-ed in The Puget Sound Business Journal
A more resilient workforce

Prepare students for technical careers

By The Seattle Times editorial board

Once, all it took to secure a satisfying and well-paying job was a high school diploma and a good work ethic. But that story has largely changed.

That's why Washington's public schools must offer robust, high-quality Career and Technical Education programs to help prepare the state's vocationally minded students for career success.

A college education should be within reach of all students with the aptitude and interest to pursue a four-year degree, but not everyone wants to follow that path. At the same time, there is a high and consistent workforce demand for skilled tradespeople, without whom Washington's economy would shudder to a halt.

Read the full editorial in The Seattle Times.