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Jay Inslee: No magic funding fairy exists for McCleary decision

Gov. Jay Inslee and ex-gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi have conflicting views of how to fulfill the McCleary obligation. (AP, Canva)

After years of major financial impasses, the fight over how to fund basic education and fulfill the requirements of the McCleary decision can finally come down to ideology, according to Gov. Jay Inslee. And whether it’s a multi-billion dollar carbon tax or a property tax increase, Inslee told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that there will be no magical fix.

Related: Educator: Inslee’s education budget is ‘dead on arrival’

After confronting Inslee about President Donald Trump’s travel ban, Dori asked about the governor’s proposed budget for the state, which includes a multi-billion dollar carbon tax increase. Dori calculated the proposed $25-per-ton tax on carbon emissions would make roughly a two-tenths of one-percent difference in global climate. He asked how the Democrat could justify proposing billions in tax increases for what globally would essentially be a zero statistical effect on the climate.

“Well, to some degree, the same reason the Republicans have suggested millions and millions and billions over time of tax increases themselves,” Inslee said. “All of us know we have to generate dollars to satisfy this McCleary decision, it’s a constitutional obligation. It takes billions of dollars to satisfy that so that we can educate our children. The Republicans have now proposed a billion dollar tax increase themselves on essentially every property owner in most of Western Washington, most of King County and they have proposed a property tax increase.”

Inslee proposed a bill that calls for about $4.4 billion in new revenue to be spent on education, to finish the state’s obligation on the state Supreme Court’s 2012 education-funding order. As The Seattle Times reported, the new taxes would be primarily on capital gains and carbon emissions, as well as increasing part of the state business-and-occupation tax. Inslee said he disagrees with property tax increases, instead proposing a property-tax cut for “75 percent of the people in the state.” Dori said that some analysts have called Inslee’s proposal a regressive tax.

“I think there is a reality here that is coming into clearer focus in that both parties understand, finally, that it’s going to take some additional revenues to the state to satisfy this obligation to the court, in the billions of dollars,” Inslee said. “That’s a necessity because of this McCleary decision, and the discussion is now how to do that, where to do that. And I have a disagreement with the Republicans. They want to raise property taxes in King county and put essentially no new money into the school, and then give a tax cut to many people in other parts of the state. I don’t think that’ the best way of doing business. My proposal is to give people in King County a tax cut, 75 percent of them, and then put significant money in schools, and instead have a tax on pollution.”

But, Dori asked, you want to hit everybody with a gas tax?

“I don’t want to, who wants to increase taxes?” Inslee responded. “Look, we’d like to see the Tooth Fairy sprinkle billions of dollars to solve this problem, but Democrats and Republicans both know we’re going to have raise money here.”

Under the Senate Republican’s proposed plan, the state would collect $1.4 billion in new, local property-tax levies per two-year budget cycle to supplement education funding, according to the Times. Dori said that using Inslee’s logic that Republicans “want to” raise property taxes, that Inslee wants to raise the gas taxes.

“If you want to put it in those terms, that’s fine,” Inslee replied. “In fact, it’s a necessity, it’s a necessity of fulfilling our constitutional obligation. I guess what I’m saying here is there are now going to be two discussions here, principle discussions in the next several weeks.”

Those discussions, Inslee said, will be from whom and where there needs to be an increase in revenues, and most importantly, whether the state will put significant additional funds into Washington’s schools.

“I’ll just tell you, I disagree with their plan,” Inslee said. “I’m glad they brought something forward, that’s great. Now we have something to talk about. But I don’t believe it is the right thing to do to have a very significant property tax increase for the people in King County and not put additional money of significance into the schools, and then give tax cuts to other people around the state. It is not fair to people in Western Washington, it’s not fair to the school kids and I have a different view.”

Dino Rossi weighs in on McCleary Decision

Two-time gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, who has been filling in on the State Senate since December after Andy Hill died from lung cancer, spoke with KTTH’s Todd Herman about the Republican’s budget plan. He called the GOP’s One Washington – Education Equality Act “historic,” and describing it as “student-centered and teacher friendly.”

Rossi said the plan shifts the state’s staffing model and gives more autonomy on the local level.

“Contrary to what you’re hearing from the WEA (Washington Education Association) and some of their friends, it’s not really about money, it’s about where the money’s coming from,” Rossi said.

Related: New education chief Chris Reykdal optimistic Legislature will fulfill court’s request

Rossi explained that the idea is for the money to come to the state and right back to the schools, saying that, ultimately, “almost every single in the state is gonna get more money, most everybody in the state will get a property tax cut, we’re going to drive the decision-making down to the local level.”

Rossi added that the plan would increase beginning teacher’s salaries from $37,500 to $45,000 and would include provisions to award excellent teachers with major bonuses, as well as a sliding scale for cost of living increase areas.

“The idea is to make it easy to understand,” Rossi said. “Right now it is so complicated, there’s a handful of legislatures and the WEA lobbyists that understand this. They keep the parents in the dark and they hate it because they can just go to Olympia and tweak it, and do what they want to do. So the Democrats in the House and Democrats in the Senate are pushing their WEA bill and they all think they need tax increases. The Governor’s budget was a non-serious budget … when you have $8.7 billion in new taxes you can’t even get off the Democrat-controlled House floor, you’re not even in the game.”

Rossi said that Inslee’s proposal is nothing but an argument for an income tax. Listen below to hear his full argument.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Dino Rossi as a two-term governor. We regret the error.


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