Bills were introduced on January 18 in both the House and Senate of the Washington State Legislature that add Washington to the growing number of states now actively moving to create public banking facilities.
The bills, House Bill 1320 and Senate Bill 5238, propose creation of a Washington Investment Trust (WIT) to “promote agriculture, education, community development, economic development, housing, and industry” by using “the resources of the people of Washington State within the state.”
Currently, all the state’s funds are deposited with Bank of America. HB 1320 proposes that, in the future, “all state funds be deposited in the Washington Investment Trust and be guaranteed by the state and used to promote the common good and public benefit of all the people and their businesses within [the] state.”
The legislation is similar to that now being studied or proposed in states including Illinois, Virginia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida, Michigan, Oregon, California and others.
The effort in Washington state draws heavily on the success of the 92-year-old Bank of North Dakota (BND), currently the only state-wide publicly owned U.S. bank. The BND has helped North Dakota escape the looming budgetary disaster facing other states. In 2009, North Dakota sported the largest budget surplus it had ever had.
The Wall Street Credit Crisis Is Crippling State and Municipal Governments
That state budget deficits are reaching crisis proportions was underscored in a January 19 New York Times article:
[A]lmost everywhere the fiscal crisis of states has grown more acute. Rainy day funds are drained, cities and towns have laid off more than 200,000 people, and Arizona even has leased out its state office building…
“It’s the time of the once unthinkable,” noted Lori Grange, deputy director of the Pew Center on the States. “Whether there are tax increases or dramatic cuts to education and vital services, the crisis is bad.”