The Workforce Education Investment Act is a way for Washington to help fund college tuition, making postsecondary education a more feasible opportunity. The bill promised free tuition for families that make less than $50,000 a year, and reduced tuition for families who met the state’s median income.
This revision is part of a new grant, called the Washington College Grant, which has replaced the State Need Grant. In short, the changes between these grants is the Washington College Grant has made more families eligible and provides funding for more programs than just college, such as apprenticeships.
Wash. planned to fund this new grant by increasing taxes on businesses within the state that depend upon college graduates. However, ensuring companies will pay this tax has fallen short. Exemptions have already been requested by smaller businesses, and forcing larger companies to pay instead may prove to be difficult.
The biggest hindrance to the bill’s success is the priorities the sponsors focused on when drafting it. Section 74 of the bill is where the most information can be found on the new surcharges that’ll be imposed on businesses. This section describes the people who’ll be expected to pay these surcharges. There is no mention of how exactly the state will ensure they will be paid other than this short sentence.
“The surcharge imposed under this subsection (1) must be reported and paid in a manner and frequency as required by the department.”
This description provides no insight into how the state plans to attain this goal. However, there may be a solution to this problem.
As part of this bill, the sponsors outlined a new board they call the Workforce Education Investment and Oversight Board. This board has a few major roles: providing guidance on funding using the workforce education investment account, ensuring that this funding is being used appropriately and determining if the investments have been effective. This board is already seeing a multitude of aspects when it comes to the finances of this bill, why not expand their oversight to ensure that companies are paying these surcharges. The board currently consists of 17 members, so expanding it doesn’t seem too unreasonable.
According to The Seattle Times, Sen. Jamie Pederson (D) and Drew Hansen (D) have both proposed their own changes to the bill. Pederson wants to surcharge any business that earns more than $1 million a year, while Hansen wants to make it easier for the government to collect these taxes. Both these proposals could be beneficial, especially Hansen’s if Wash. hopes to fulfill their promise with this bill.
The opportunity to attend college should be available to anyone with the drive to do so, but Wash.’s plans may have been a bit too ambitious, leading us right back to where we started.
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