While several public banking bills are cooking in the legislative ovens of the U. S. Congress, a new bill (SB5188) to establish a Washington State Public Bank has been introduced by a group of state senators including Kuderer, Nguyen, Conway, Darneille, Das, Dhingra, Hasegawa, Hunt, Liias, Lovelett, Stanford, Wilson, C., Van De Wege, and Wellman. As you have read on this site before, Sen Hasegawa has been the champion of public banking in Washington for the past decade. This particular bill will set the public bank as a cooperative open to membership by government entities such as described below.
SB 5188 states in part:
“The legislature finds that a cooperative Washington state public bank would provide opportunities for state, local, and tribal government entities to competitively finance a broad array of public infrastructure and economic development projects, including housing, at competitive rates with low administrative costs. A cooperative state public bank will complement the existing banking system by filling gaps that the system cannot or will not fill, and it will be uniquely positioned to provide specialized technical assistance to the diverse needs of state, local, and tribal government entities.”
At least one major roadblock to a public banking bill was removed by the last election in which the obstructionist Republican State Treasurer Duane Davidson was voted out of office. Davidson was a robotic voice of support for private banking only and demonstrated an ignorance about public banking that was breathtaking. (See Washington State Treasurer Gaslighting on Public Banking) His successor, Democrat Mike Pellicciotti has expressed an interest in and openness to a public bank in this state.
To provide an idea of the benefits that come with a public bank in this state, the bill provides for financing of the following:
Infrastructure that the Bank may invest in (Sec. 1 (8))
• roads and bridges
• water and sewer systems
• solid waste
• pollution control
• communications systems
• mass transportation facilities
• public housing
• fire equipment
• emergency services equipment
• energy facilities
• “other public infrastructure deemed eligible by the [operating] board”
• goal of providing 35% of its lending each year to housing in low to moderate-income
areas, beginning five years after activation (Sec. 3 (10))
• the Bank may also invest in economic development projects (Sec. 4 (15))
But the bill is not yet a law. A hearing on SB5188 will be held at 8:00 AM on January 28th before the Senate Committee on Business, Financial Services & Trade. If it is anything like previous bills on public banking before this committee, you can expect a parade of naysayers and paid lobbyists as was the case on January 28th when a previous public banking bill came before the same committee.
Those reading this can assist in the passage of this bill on public banking by contacting their state senator or by encouraging local city and county councils to adopt resolutions of support as has done the Bellingham City Council last year at this time.