Why public banking is
the right choice for states
By Evan Wipf
SPEEA Council Rep
[Editor’s note: Evan Wipf is the chair of the
Northwest Legislative and Public Affairs (L&PA)
Committee and serves as a Council Rep for SPEEA
Almost every time you look at the news, you read
about unmet infrastructure needs in our state:
deteriorating bridges and roads, inadequate public transportation systems, overcrowded and antiquated school buildings – the list goes on. A big
part of the cost of these long-term capital projects
is the expense involved in financing them through
the big for-profit banks. Those costs make it that
much harder for capital projects to compete for
limited tax dollars with ongoing state obligations
like basic education and human services.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to free
up more state revenue by drastically reducing
the financing cost of capital projects? Actually,
there is – it’s called public banking.
Public banking is banking operated in the public interest by institutions owned by the people
through their representative governments. Public
banks can exist at all levels – local, state, national
Public banking saves money compared to
financing through private banks, because the
need to satisfy shareholders interested primarily
in short-terms profits is eliminated. A public
bank for Washington would keep our money
here, where it can serve ordinary citizens, rather
than being used by Wall Street for the kind of
risky lending and speculative investment that
caused the economic crisis of 2008.
Are you thinking that public banking sounds
like just another liberal economic idea unlikely
to succeed in the real world? Think again. A
shining example of the value of public banking
comes from North Dakota, traditionally one of
the most conservative states in the nation.
North Dakota created its state bank (BND) in
1919, one result of the populist movement to
protect farmers from predatory lending practices.
All of North Dakota’s state tax revenue is deposited into the BND, which in turn invests in small
businesses, infrastructure projects, student loans,
and other economic activity.
Rather than competing with the private sector,
the BND works in partnership with a network
of small private community banks in the state.
Profits generated by BND investments go right
back into the state coffers.
In every other state, as much as 50% of the cost
of financing large capital projects ends up going
to shareholders in the giant Wall Street banks and
to the exorbitant compensation paid to those
bank’s top executives.
Washington State Senator Bob Hasegawa, a
‘Friend of SPEEA’ award recipient, has introduced legislation in Olympia to create a similar
bank for our state.
How it could work here
Senate Bill 5464, sponsored by Hasegawa and
16 senate colleagues, would create a state bank
called the Washington Investment Trust. Once
created, the trust would become solvent from a
variety of sources – money currently deposited in
Wall Street banks, federal transportations funds,
general obligation bond proceeds, and more as
directed by a commission of elected officials
established by the bill.
The value of a state bank could be especially great
for SPEEA members, since one of the factors
that Boeing considers in work location decisions
is the quality of available public infrastructure
– transportation, schools, etc. Recognizing the
positive impact public banking could have, the
SPEEA Northwest Council approved a resolution in support of SB 5464 or similar legislation
at its April meeting.
SPEEA members are encouraged to learn more
about the public banking option and to voice
support to their elected officials.
For those who live in Seattle, expect to hear
much more about public banking in the coming months, as Sen. Hasegawa has made it a
cornerstone of his recently-announced Seattle
• Public banking –
• Senate Bill 5464 – app.leg.wa.gov/
billinfo (insert bill number)
• NW Council motion – www.speea.org
soars at Wichita
With members helping, dozens of youth had fun
at the SPEEA paper airplane contest at Wichita’s
SPEEA and others sponsored a special day called
STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art
and Math) City, which drew hundreds to the
event June 4. Many inquired about SPEEA and
how the union and its members partner with
About 20 members and their families helped
at the booth, where youth could fold a paper
airplane following printed instructions. Later
in the day, plane ‘builders’ flew their planes off
the Century II building balcony with the goal
of landing in the bucket. The three who came
closest (and won gift cards) are: Bianca Medley,
8, Eymoni Smith, 8, Niki Wood, 14.
SPEEA started this event last year and came back to
build upon the success of the first year. SPEEA contributed again this year to the Sheet Metal Workers
Local 29, whose members built two 22-foot tall
model rockets. SPEEA’s logo was on the rocket
along with Local 29 at both entrances to STEAM
City. SPEEA also hosted one of the lounge tents.
SPEEA was a sponsor of the Wichita Riverfest event for
Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM)
City, where SPEEA members organized a paper airplane
contest. Council Reps Daniel Ryan, left, and Mark Gayer
are shown here with Mary Beth Jarvis, president and CEO
of Wichita Festivals Inc. SPEEA also helped pay for materials
for the 22-foot rockets built by the Sheet Metal Workers Union
Local 29 for the two entrances to STEAM City.