OLYMPIA – Washington State Senate Republicans are holding firm on claims that their budget invests more money towards public schools while providing tax cuts for 83% of taxpayers despite nonpartisan legislative staff analysis that contradicts those claims.
“It’s frustrating to say the least,” said Rep. Laurie Dolan (D-Olympia), vice chair of the House Education Committee, regarding the inaccurate information being disseminated. “Moving $5 dollars from one pocket to another doesn’t make you $5 richer, yet this is the logic my Senate Republican colleagues are using. The math just doesn’t add up.”
“As a teacher and school administrator for 30 years, I know schools don’t care which pot the funding comes from,” said Dolan. “They just want adequate funding to do their jobs effectively. When considering the total dollars – state and local funding – the Senate Republican plan falls well short of what schools need to provide a high-quality education for every child.”
According to nonpartisan House Office of Program Research committee staff analysis, property taxpayers in all but three of the 295 school districts could see sharp increases in their property taxes under the Senate Republican education funding plan. Yet despite these increases, total funding per student is significantly less under the Republicans’ plan than under the one proposed by House Democrats.
(Click here for a Google Map of this analysis broken down by school district.)
The average funding increase per student in School Year 2020-21 (when both plans would be fully implemented) would be $2,926 under the Democratic plan and only $1,913 under the Republican plan. Total net new funding statewide over the next four school years would be $8.5 billion under the Democratic plan, and only $4.5 billion under the Republican plan.
“The school investment difference is even more staggering considering the total property tax increase under the Senate Republican plan would be about $1.3 billion in 2021. Compare this to our plan, which depends significantly less on local property taxes,” said Rep. Monica Stonier (D-Vancouver), vice chair of the House Education Committee. “Middle-class families and small business owners would pay far more in property taxes and get fewer dollars back for their kids’ schools under the Republican plan. Our kids deserve better.”
The state is under court order to increase education spending, which nearly all lawmakers agree requires new revenue sources. Republicans have endorsed a plan that generates 100% of the new revenue through $5.5 billion in higher state property taxes over four years while Democrats favor a more progressive approach.
The Democratic plan includes taxes on capital gains, high-value home sales, and some high-grossing businesses.
Additionally, under the House Democrats’ plan, small businesses would get a break in the form of an exemption from the Business & Occupation tax. More than 72% of businesses in Washington state would pay no Business & Occupation tax at all under the Democratic small-business tax relief proposal.
The Legislature is nearing the end of the first special session of 2017. Senate Republican leaders continue to refuse invitations from Democrats to negotiate a compromise operating budget, making a second special session all but certain. If GOP lawmakers fail to come to the table to discuss a compromise by June 30, the state government could shut down July 1.
The Google Map linked here has information pertaining to the net increase in funding per student with both plans as well as the net property tax increase.