On Dec. 13, the Bellevue College Office of Student Legislative Affairs sponsored ten students to attend the 2012 Budget Matters Conference at the Washington State Convention Center. The conference was put on by the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, which aims to “use research and analysis to advance the well-being of Washington communities, improve the economic security and social opportunity of all in the state, and support the essential role of government in promoting a just and prosperous society.”
Velez said that the Washington Student Association told OSLA’s organizing director about the event. “We said, ‘Wow, that’s exactly what we’re looking for! This is amazing!’” said Velez. Velez was able to get four tickets to the conference at a discounted price, and the OSLA funded the rest of the students to attend. Velez also said that it wasn’t hard to find people to attend the conference: “I told a lot of people in Student Programs. I had flyers and stuff, but the people who are really interested…are gonna come back to me because they’re interested in the economy and activism. Really, they kind of chose themselves.”
At the conference, more than 300 legislators, advocates, policy experts and students came together to discuss Washington’s economy. The OSLA students from BC were primarily concerned with how Washington’s budget would affect higher education. According to Kristin Velez, the Director of OSLA, the entire conference convened to listen to Washington State Legislature House Representative Ross Hunter discuss “a variety of different issues,” and then they broke into groups to attend various panels.
“I went to a [panel titled] ‘Building a 21st Century Revenue System,’ and this was my favorite one that I went to,” said Velez. “I don’t know if you’ve looked at OSLA’s agenda, but underneath ‘tuition’ the way we’re proposing to address it is a new dedicated revenue. They talked a lot about capital gains taxes. They also talked about other ways they could get revenue, but they listed capital gains taxes as the most probable, regardless of whether or not it’s the best.”
Other panels offered were titled, “The Affordable Care act: Maximizing the Opportunities,” “Building a Prosperity Economy in Washington State” and “Effective Messaging Strategies.” At lunch, Author, Speaker, CNN Contributer and former adviser to President Obama Van Jones, who is also the president and co-founder of Rebuild the Dream, spoke about moving Washington’s economy forward.
Velez thought the conference was a success. “We had a better idea of where we’re at in the state—like what’s going on in terms of education and how that’s going to affect us,” she said. Velez went on to stress the importance of educating students on the economy “so when we go down to rallies and when people have meetings with legislators…[students] know what they’re talking about so people can’t dismiss it as, ‘It’s just a student. They don’t know what’s going on.’”
To learn more about the OSLA, visit their office in Student Programs, room C-205 or email Kristin Velez at firstname.lastname@example.org.