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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The scheduled 105-day legislative session for 2017 got under way Monday, Jan. 9 at noon. It is an honor to once again be sworn-in to serve the people of the 28th District.
It's a budget year
Every legislative cycle and budget is two years. In odd-numbered years, the 'budget year,' we are scheduled for 105-days. This session we will carefully examine the governor's budget proposal and line it up according to the 4-year balanced budget outlook requirement. Discussion and debate about the proposal will take place in various committees and on the House floor. Throughout this process, we will be submitting changes and any other necessary corrections.
Helping our schools
This year the debate about the budget will be dominated with meeting the 2012 state Supreme Court's “McCleary decision” ruling. Since that time, $4.6 billion has been added to K-12 education funding. The remaining piece is how to end the use of local levies by school districts to cover the cost of teacher and staff salaries.
In the governor's inaugural address this week he said education funding is our top priority this year. He also stated there are “many routes to the summit” and “his plan is not the only way.” He's right, we must protect our children's future by fully funding basic education. But, the route to the summit of fully funding education does not need to start with the highest tax increase in Washington's history.
When fully implemented by 2019-21, the proposed tax increases would amount to about $7 billion in new taxes. The plan creates an income-tax with a 7.9 percent tax on capital gains and a fossil fuel tax on “carbon emissions.” It also increases the Business and Occupation (B&O) tax and imposes a sales tax on bottled water. And, it includes a jump in taxes for thousands of service industry businesses – affecting everything from beauty parlors, to law firms, to janitors and even funeral parlors.
Here is a quick breakdown of the proposal:
- Increases the Business and Occupation (B&O) tax rate from 1.5 to 2.5 percent, a 67 percent increase.
- Creates an income tax with a 7.9 percent tax on capital gains (investment earnings)
- Creates a new tax on fossil fuel emissions – $25 fee per metric ton, increasing by 3.5 percent each year.
- Imposes a sales tax on bottled water
- New taxes on service industry businesses
Many of these taxes have been proposed before – some of them more than once. Each time the legislature and the people have said “no.”
Initiative 1098 – Voters reject income tax (64.15 percent in 2010)
Initiative 1107 – Voters repeal sales tax on bottled water (60.44 percent in 2010)
Initiative 1464 – Voters reject nonresident sales tax (53.71 percent in 2016)
Initiative 464 – Voters approve repeal of tax on vehicle trade-in exclusion to $10,000 (68.95 in 1984)
Initiative 732 – Voters reject carbon tax (59.25 percent in 2016)
The plan is not only an immense increase in our taxes, but it still would not cover all of the spending in the proposal. This plan suspends the four-year balanced budget and empties the state's “rainy-day” fund for the next four years. This could potentially leave our state coffers empty in the case of an emergency or economic downturn.
Local levy reform
Instead of starting with increasing taxes, we should begin looking at how we can set priorities for education funding. Funds from recent economic growth should be funneled into education. Then, we put a stop to the reliance of local levies to cover the cost of teacher and staff salaries.
Sometimes called the “levy swap” this proposal seeks to equalize the local tax-levy rates, used primarily to fund local programs and teacher pay, by spreading the tax burden across the state. The legislature would increase state property tax for public schools. They would then take money paid in local school levy-taxes and redistribute the funds statewide.
For districts with lower property values per student the result could be a slight decrease, or no change, for levy tax rates. But, for those with higher property assessments it could mean paying more. In fact, some of the wealthier school districts in our state are paying quite a bit less per household than what we pay here in the 28th District.
I believe by reviewing and revising our spending we can achieve the goal of fully funding basic education in our state, without unnecessarily increasing our taxes.
As always, your comments, concerns and questions are welcome. Please feel free to call, email or come see me in Olympia. My contact information is listed below.
424 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7890 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000