After 6 years of persistent encouragement, WA State Senator Bob Hasegawa finally saw his baby walk. That baby is the goal of getting the State legislature to act on the creation of a state-owned public bank.
In an extended workshop on what creating such a bank might mean for the State, it’s agencies and economy, 6 State Senators, members of the State Treasurer’s office, Commerce Department, House Appropriations, Port and County finance executives, Banker’s Association representatives, a credit union lobbyist and others, all gathered at the Seattle-Tacoma Convention Center to do a serious dive into the facts. And it was the first public outing of the newly formed WA State Bank Legislative Caucus, a first of its kind in the country. Senator Hasegawa reported that he felt critical mass had been reached in the legislature to move forward with the bank idea.
It was also the first outing of a new public banking consultancy designed to provide just such support for elected officials, executives and officers who are seriously investigating creation of state and municipal public banks. The new consultancy, Public Banking Associates, is a direct outgrowth of PBI’s work around the country bringing substance, expertise and support to local/state public banking initiatives.
Legislators heard presentations by PBI Chair Ellen Brown, PBA President and former PBI Chair Walt McRee, and Dr. Karl Beitel. Presentations were followed by robust rounds of Q & A by attendees, with a hopeful mood seeming to emerge as the day progressed; these officials seemed very positive about the idea of having a state bank. Event hosts Senators Lisa Wellman and Patty Kuderer have taken hold of the public banking baton from Senator Hasegawa, who is now running for Mayor of Seattle. Creating a city-owned public bank is one of his primary campaign issues.
Senator Hasegawa hosted a public forum the day afterward at the University of Washington featuring Ellen Brown and Walt McRee and one of the new Public Bank Caucus Senators Maralyn Chase, who moderated later discussion.
The momentum generated by these events indicate that 2017 may be a pivotal year for Seattle city and WA State public banking supporters – they’ve reached an important new plateau.