Gov. Jay Inslee’s call to raise money for schools by closing tax breaks put the education funding debate back in the laps of lawmakers this week and in the conversation with voters this fall.
Inslee’s plan to generate $200 million in new taxes by eliminating or revising seven exemptions is a slimmed down version of the billion-dollar plus tax package rejected by a Republican-led majority in the Senate a year ago.
There’s no evidence things will turn out differently for him and his Democrat allies in 2014 because the balance of power is the same.
Republicans say lawmakers put roughly $1 billion additional dollars into schools in 2013 and can wait to make another hefty investment in 2015.
Inslee didn’t seem concerned about the prospect of another defeat when he unveiled his scheme Tuesday.
Rather, he sounded as if he was test-driving messages Democrats can use this fall as the party tries to regain a working majority in the Senate.
He spoke of the need to fill the “gas tank of reform” and satisfy the Supreme Court’s demand for “concrete action” to fully fund the basic education of 1 million public school students.
And he cast Republicans as a reluctant bunch whose minds might change before the Legislature is set to adjourn in early March.
“The other party has said they don’t want to spend another dime on our children’s education this year,” he told reporters, adding later he hoped it was only “a temporary condition.”
And he suggested lawmakers are wrong to think voting for his tax plan to fund schools will doom their re-election.
“I believe very deeply that it is a winning issue for a candidate to face his public and say ‘I stood up for funding our schools and our kids’,” he said. “I will tell you candidates who do that are going to win elections this November. I believe this is where the people are (at) in the state of Washington.”
Time will tell if he’s right.
Jerry Cornfield is a political reporter who covers Olympia for The Daily Herald in Everett, which is among the Washington state newspapers in the Sound Publishing group. He can be contacted at email@example.com.