As the winter rains fell in the Pacific Northwest, PBI Board Members Nichoe Lichen and Ellen Brown met in Tacoma last Thursday, Nov 9 with the State of Washington's Infrastructure and Public Depository Bank Task Force to present PBI’s evaluation of the nuts and bolts for establishing a Public Bank for the State of Washington.
Ellen and Nichoe were impressed by the expertise and commitment of those Washington legislators and bank representatives serving on the task force and how much progress they had made. Perhaps it will it be the State of Washington that enables the first Public Bank in the US in 98 years!
Ellen’s presentation gave a “why and how” presentation, full of current examples. Ellen pointed out that the State has a number of loan funds that have already been appropriated, which means they would not need to borrow funds. Ellen also explained the difference between a revolving loan fund and a depository bank: “With a bank, you can take that same money already allocated, call it capital and make 5 times as much.”
Nichoe talked about practical examples of what a Public Bank to fund infrastructure could do in Washington: how it could help local government units and the state while turning a profit. Nichoe also brought up legal questions the task force should address, and gave examples of different models for governance that provide transparency and accountability to the public.
In the discussion, task force members did not focus on obstacles, but rather focused on funding a clear path forward to enable a Public Bank for the people of Washington. Representative Steve Kirby, who chairs the very important Business and Financial Services (Banking) Committee, stated several times that he could sense a way forward (see video at 2 hrs 30 min), though how to do it had not yet taken shape in his mind. He proposed that a "title only bill" be introduced this November, with the potential to complete enabling legislation during the 2018 three-month session.
This task force has a deadline of December 1, 2017 to give the Legislature draft legislation of their recommendations.