State Treasurer, Bipartisan Coalition Propose Washington Future Fund
OLYMPIA – Request legislation from the Office of the State Treasurer to create the Washington Future Fund (WFF) has been pre-filed for consideration during the 2023 legislative session. House Bill 1094, sponsored by Rep. Monica Stonier (D-Vancouver) and Rep. Paul Harris (R-Vancouver), and Senate Bill 5125, sponsored by Sen. Yasmin Trudeau (D-Tacoma) and Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center), would reserve and set aside $4,000 from the budget for each Washington newborn enrolled in Apple Health by the age of one. These funds would be invested now and grow to meet future needs in the decades ahead.
In 2020, approximately 38,200 births were funded by Apple Health in Washington, which accounts for forty-seven percent of all newborns in the state. This key poverty indicator forecasts a growing wealth and opportunity divide beginning in the first days of life.
The WFF investment for these newborns would be managed by the Washington State Investment Board similarly to state pensions, growing the initial $4,000. Then, after nearly two decades or more of investment with conservative estimates projecting a threefold return, eligible Washingtonians experiencing poverty would be able to direct these realized funds for one of three specific wealth building pathways: postsecondary education including apprenticeships, homeownership, or small business creation.
“We must think long-term and save money today, so these invested funds can meet state treasury needs decades from now,” said Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti. “The Washington Future Fund would give access to opportunity for each child born today and also inject capital into and give hope to those Washington communities that feel forgotten and have lost capital investments for generations.”
Last session, the legislature funded the creation of the WFF Committee and commissioned a study to evaluate the proposal and make recommendations for the 2023 session. One of the key findings: poverty is persistent and often generational. Treasurer Pellicciotti also saw this firsthand during his 39-county tour of Washington last year. The WFF is designed to provide capital interventions at key moments for qualifying Washingtonians looking to invest in their future.
“This legislation will help disrupt the cycle of generational poverty by bringing down barriers when it comes to opportunity, education, and homeownership—because every child deserves a chance,” said Stonier, prime sponsor of HB 1094.
The bipartisan legislation has attracted a broad range of support in Washington due to the growing opportunity and wealth divides in communities around the state. In many rural counties, the rate of Apple Health funded births sits between 61-70% of all births. In six rural counties, that figure exceeds 71% of all births.
“I’m sponsoring SB 5125 because Republicans in our state Senate are all about helping more people realize the dream of homeownership, making higher education affordable, and promoting entrepreneurship – and the Washington future fund program would check all of those boxes, in a novel way,” said Rivers. “I’m particularly interested in what it could mean for children who are placed in the foster system and others who for whatever reason grow up in homes that are less than stable. The conservative side of me knows this would mean creating another government-run program, which has risks, but it’s still an intriguing idea, and my policy side is interested in seeing how it flies with my colleagues and the public.”
The long-term approach to building wealth for those in need would complement existing programs to reduce poverty while offering a concrete pathway for young Washingtonians wondering what the future may hold for them.
“The Washington Future Fund is an incredible opportunity to address the dangerously expanding problem of generational poverty,” said Trudeau, prime sponsor of SB 5125. “It is a program that works to meet the needs of our kids–especially those in rural areas and in BIPOC communities.”
The 2022 version of the bill passed through both House and Senate policy committees. The 2023 legislative session begins on January 10th.