Dear Friends and Neighbors,
How we fund K-12 education is the main issue separating the two majority parties in the House and Senate and the reason the Legislature is now in a second special session. I share the frustration of many about the Legislature going into overtime. However, past special sessions have produced bipartisan operating budgets and great results for our state. I believe we should be optimistic about the outcomes ahead.
Significant accomplishments in K-12 education funding
Over the last two budget cycles, the Legislature has directed an additional $4.6 billion for K-12 education. For the first time since 1983, basic education funding is set to represent more than 50 percent of the state's operating budget. Investments since the state Supreme Court's 2012 McCleary decision have included smaller K-3 class sizes, full-day kindergarten, teacher raises and paying for more materials, supplies and operating costs. These are some significant accomplishments.
The final requirements of the court ruling include ending our overreliance on local levies to fund basic education and creating a more equitable teacher compensation system.
Here is a sampling of some of the messages I have received:
- “Please fully fund K-12 education by legislating that wealthy individuals and large corporations pay their fair share of taxes.”
- “Our kids deserve the best and education deserves to be fully funded.”
- “Please pass a state budget that increases state-funded pay for teachers and education support professionals as proposed in Gov. Inslee's budget.”
- “I heard of an option to decrease the taxes in rural areas and increase the taxes of affluent areas like Mercer Island, Bellevue, Seattle, etc. I love that idea. I am tired of liberals wanting to take more of my money for their 'ideas' and would like them to shoulder more of the costs.”
- “Pay for education with progressive taxes, such as a capital gains tax, income tax, or elimination of loopholes in corporate taxes, rather than regressive taxes, such as sales tax or property tax.”
- “Please fully fund public education.”
- “Please make sure, to the best of your ability, that you fulfill our state's paramount duty to amply fund public education.”
More funding will go to education; the question is how?
We are now in the second week of the second 30-day special session largely because majority Democrats in the House and the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (SMCC) have not been able to reach agreement on how to fund K-12 education going forward. Both plans would invest billions in K-12 education. The disagreement is how to pay for it.
One proposal is to leave the state's regressive education funding system of local levies in place, which would likely lead to McCleary 2.0. For example, the proposal would actually increase the amount of local levies that districts can collect and does not propose reforms that would ensure districts do not use local levies to backfill basic education salaries. This is counter to the court's directive to reduce overreliance on local levies.
The other proposal would replace local levies with a flat, statewide property tax. This new funding system would result in more equitable funding for students across the state, while also reducing property taxes by hundreds of dollars each year for many taxpayers in less densely populated areas.
Also, House Democrats continue to insist on raising taxes by $8 billion over the next four years, but have not brought their tax package to the floor for a vote. There is a list of tax bills they have proposed. But there's no indication they would ever take a vote on those bills. So the impasse continues and it appears likely we will be heading into a second 30-day special session next week.
Are tax increases necessary to pay for education?
I don't believe so. Washington is expected to take in an additional $2.6 billion in 2017-19 as compared to the current budget cycle – an increase of 6.8 percent. These are additional dollars without considering any tax increases that were proposed in the 2017 session. This increase is largely attributed to the booming economy in Seattle and central Puget Sound. Yet, many other counties across the state continue to struggle and unemployment remains high. I believe tax increases would further hurt our state's economy. With such a large increase in state revenues, there should be no reason why we cannot amply fund K-12 education and take care of the state's needs without raising taxes.
Do you think you are not paying enough taxes? Are you willing to pay more for education?
There are those who disagree with me and believe Washington state government needs more money. If you think you are not paying enough taxes or know of others who believe more taxes are needed to pay for education, no one needs to wait until the Legislature takes action. People and businesses can contribute right now!
The state of Washington accepts voluntary contributions through the Treasurer's Office. Go here to make your donation: http://www.tre.wa.gov/documents/waStateDonationForm.pdf.
If someone wishes their money to be directed to K-12 schools, a donation can be designated to the Permanent Common School Fund. Make the designation on the line that reads: (Optional) Recipient Account(s). If you make no designation, the money will be directed to the state General Fund, which also pays for K-12 education. Follow the directions on the form and mail your check to the Washington State Treasurer. The address is listed on the form.
If you have questions or comments about education funding or any other issues regarding state government, feel free to contact my office. My contact information is below.
Thank you for allowing me the honor of serving as your state representative!