Public banks might be a rarity in the U.S., but globally we’re way behind the curve. “Public banking has been around in Europe forever,” explains state Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, prime sponsor of SB 5188. In many countries, public banks finance major infrastructure projects and mission-oriented research and development. State investment banks have helped to make Germany, Brazil and China global leaders in green energy technologies.
“It’s challenging in the United States because the banking industry has such tight control over our monetary system,” says Kuderer.
Attempts to get a public bank going in Washington state date back to at least 2009, when Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, then in the state House of Representatives, championed the idea. His efforts eventually led to a task force and several studies. There’s been a public bank bill in the Legislature nearly every year of the past decade, but none ever made it out of committee.
This year is different. The COVID-19 pandemic and recession forced governments to take an unprecedentedly hands-on approach to the economy and the financial system. Last April, the International Monetary Fund wrote approvingly of public banks’ potential to help households and firms through the pandemic. All that set the stage for SB 5188, which passed the Senate 27-21 on March 5, and is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Committee on Consumer Protection & Business at 8 a.m. March 17. (Washington state residents can register their opinion, pro or con, here until an hour before the hearing.)
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction