Will it take a state income tax to fund education?
Aug 30, 2015, 2:15 PM | Updated: Aug 31, 2015, 5:33 am
Because the Washington State Legislature hasn’t found any other ways to do it, an economist is suggesting lawmakers impose an income tax to properly fund education.
John Burbank, executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, claims all it would only take is an additional $3.5 billion for the Legislature to meet its requirement to fully fund K-12 education.
To do that, Burbank wants to see an income tax set in place that steadily increases the more a household is worth.
“We need a revision of our tax system,” Burbank told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.
With the right income tax, not only could the state lower its sales taxes by 1.5 cents, it could also lower tuition for higher education while providing more for childhood and public education, according to Burbank. To accomplish that he suggests placing tax rates of 2 percent for a $100,000 household; 3.5 percent for $200,000 household; 5 percent for a $500,000 household; 6.25 percent for those making $1 million; and 8.125 for $2 million. The first $50,000 of household income would be exempt. This system would raise $7.5 billion, which could be dispersed through Washington’s education system as needed — there would even be enough left over to put toward other public services and reserve.
He argues that Washington’s current system taxes low- and middle-income households the most, with high-income households getting off easy.
“There’s an imbalance, he explained.
But hold on just a second there, John. Under that system, a couple each making $70,000 a year would have to give $1,800 to the state? Dori asked. Does he think state lawmakers would spend that money better than the couple?
The state already has enough taxpayer money it is throwing away on projects that are either behind schedule, over budget, or both, Dori said. And it has nothing to do with not having enough money, but it has everything to do with an overabundance of inefficiencies within government.
“You really think the state deserves even $5 billion more of our money?” Dori asked.
The discussion over income tax follows the State Supreme Court’s decision to fine the Legislature $100,000 a day until it finds a plan to better fund education. The Legislature continues to be in violation of its obligation to “amply provide for public education.”
Burbank believes lawmakers are unwilling to make the necessary changes to the state’s tax system to meet the needs of education. They are just doing the bare minimum to avoid the cumbersome task of adjusting taxes.
“Economic growth won’t get us there, because our tax system is not tethered to growth in income,” Burbank wrote. “But it would also be incredibly easy to get this money, if we had the political leadership willing to do so.”
What it comes down to, according to Burbank, is Washington has a Legislature that has turned “a blind eye to the wealthy” when trying to come up with solutions to fund education.
The only way a state income tax would ever pass is if the sales tax was abolished, Dori argued. Voters have shot down the income tax time and time again. Even if sales tax was reduced if an income tax was imposed, the sales tax would go back up eventually.
“They would move sales tax back up,” Dori said.
After that: The exemption rate of $50,000 would be lowered, meaning more households paying income tax.
“Once this tax gets in place, they will ensnare as many people as possible,” Dori said.
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