Teaching Profession

Washington State Governor Proposes Billions in New Taxes to Pay Teachers

By Brenda Iasevoli — December 19, 2016 2 min read
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At a news conference at a Tacoma high school last week, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced $4 billion in proposed new taxes. Most of the money raised would be used to pay teachers and for additional school spending, according to the Seattle Times.

“Today we are revealing a budget that will realize both our opportunity and our obligation to make sure every child, every child, has what they deserve, which is a great education and a chance to realize their dreams,” Inslee said.

Much of the funds would come from new taxes on carbon emissions and on capital gains from the sale of property or investments, with the exception of homes and retirement accounts, reports the Seattle Times. The carbon tax would charge emitters $25 per metric ton, beginning in 2018, and raise $2 billion. The 7.9 percent capital gains tax would raise $821 million in 2019, and affect only the wealthiest Washington residents, fewer than 1 percent, according to Inslee.

The governor’s plan also includes a $250 million a year property tax cut that would benefit more than 100 school districts. What’s more, a starting teacher’s salary would increase from $35,700 to $54,587 by the plan’s second year.

Republicans, many of whom fought and won against similar tax proposals by Inslee in 2015, are not happy with the governor’s proposal. Republican Sen. Ann Rivers, a member of the state’s Education Funding Task Force, dismissed it outright. “The governor’s plan looks more like another attempt to impose a new carbon tax and a new tax on income and less like a way to thoughtfully address the K-12 funding question,” she said in a statement. She went on to argue that the tax hikes go beyond what is needed to fund education.

The governor’s tax proposal comes on the heels of the 2012 McCleary decision, which landed the state in contempt of court over failure to adequately fund public education. (Here’s some background on school finance suits.) In response to the decision, lawmakers added funding for all-day kindergarten, school supplies and for reducing kindergarten through third grade class sizes to 17 students.

But the state has yet to address a key part of the decision: how to pay teachers and other school staff. The local school district uses property taxes to pay salaries, creating a disparity between rich and poor districts. The court, however, has declared the state responsible for paying teachers.

“It’s time to end the 30 years of underfunding education,” said Inslee at the news conference announcing his plan. “It’s time to get this job done. And I’m committed to doing that in 2017.”

Inslee has thrown his plan into the ring. The state’s house Democrats and senate Republicans will submit their plans next, and they’ll all battle it out in the legislative session beginning in January. The state supreme court, which issued the McCleary decision, has ordered that the state fix the funding problem by the start of the 2018-2019 school year.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.