From improving education to using data to improve criminal justice outcomes and the cloud to address inequality, Microsoft has something to say about the state's future.

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Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, posted “Next Generation Washington” on the company’s blog Thursday, outlining the MSFT priorities and ideas for the new legislative session in Olympia. It’s an important, sensible and visionary document and I urge you to read it. Pass it around, too.

Although Microsoft is often quietly involved in lobbying and supporting certain policy efforts (ST3 was an example), it’s been awhile since the company came out with such a wide-ranging and ambitious — and transparent — agenda for the public good. These are “old Seattle” values, where a corporation ties its well-being to the community good.

The post discusses “five public policy pillars” that are important to the state’s future:

  • Education and workforce training.
  • Improvements to the criminal justice system.
  • Equal pay in the workforce.
  • The Cascadia Innovation Corridor.
  • A cloud for the global good.

Under each of these items, Smith fleshes out approaches and constructive responses that one hopes will get the attention of lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee.

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Not surprisingly, the agenda calls for haste in settling funding for the McCleary case and funding university investments such as the second computer science engineering building at the University of Washington. But it also discusses the need to improve education funding and scholarships for students to attain middle-skill jobs and vocations. One suggestion is expanding the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship program (Microsoft has donated $35 million to the program). Another, intriguingly, is adopting a Swiss-style vocational education and training apprenticeship program that begins in high school and leads to good jobs. Switzerland has one of the world’s lowest rates of unemployment among young people.

Something dear to my mind is support for exploring high-speed passenger trains between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., as part of developing an innovation corridor. We need to join the advanced world sometime (I hope) and high-speed rail offers the most convenient and climate-friendly way to tie together city pairs and conurbations.

The agenda is heavy on public-private partnerships, with big roles for major corporations to play. It offers some concrete ideas on addressing inequality and social justice. And coming from one of the state’s largest employers and most globally influential companies, it’s a welcome contribution. The ideas here should inform, inspire and benchmark policy well beyond the current session.


Today’s Econ Haiku:

Jeff’s D.C. mansion

But don’t get tied to the post

And whipped by the Don