Revenue solutions exist, but it takes leadership and vision
Joining with parents, community members, education organizations and others, LWEA was a part of the group that sued the state in 2007 for failing to fully fund public education as mandated by our state constitution. The case made it all the way to the state Supreme Court, which ruled in 2012 that the state was in violation of the constitution, and must take steps to fully fund education by 2018.
Despite that ruling, known as the McCleary decision, legislators have been dragging their feet on coming up with the funds to comply with the court's decision. Last year, the Supreme Court even went so far as to hold the Legislature in contempt of court, demanding that they allocate sufficient resources in the 2015 legislative session to comply with the ruling.
As a result, legislators now have a contempt-of-court judgment hanging over their heads, but many are reluctant to consider new revenue sources. Senator Andy Hill (R-Redmond) told the Kirkland Reporter, "Raising taxes is an easy but lazy way to balance a budget."
Clearly, additional revenue is needed to not only fund the McCleary decision, but also I-1351, which reduces class sizes in our state's public schools. If, in one day, the Legislature can approve $8.7 billion in tax breaks for Boeing, it can find the revenue to fund public education.
Governor Jay Inslee has proposed two tax increases that will help make the system fairer while raising more funds for education and health and social services. Polling shows strong voter support for his major revenue ideas:
- A tax on capital gains. Washington is one of nine states without a capital gains tax, and Inslee's proposed 7% tax is less than the rate in Idaho and Oregon. "We're asking the wealthiest Washingtonians to do a little more. I am proposing a new capital gains tax on the sale of stocks, bonds and other assets. It is estimated that less than 1% of the state's taxpayers would be affected. This exempts any capital gains on retirement accounts, homes, farms, and forestry," Inslee said.
- A tax on the big companies that pollute our environment. "Inslee's plan assumes $380 million from his proposed cap-and-trade program to combat climate change, which would charge oil refineries and other big polluters for their carbon emissions," says the Seattle Times.
We believe Gov. Inslee's revenue proposals are a step in the right direction toward reforming our state's outdated and unfair tax system, while raising the funds needed to provide the services Washington residents depend on. While Inslee's proposals still fall short of fully funding our schools, it's a good first start.
Have an opinion on this? Be sure to let the Governor and your legislators know. You can do so by going to www.ourvoicewashingtonea.org from your personal device during non-work hours.