Yesterday, Washington’s Supreme Court gave Tim Eyman’s I‑1366 a proper and fitting burial, ruling 9–0 that the measure was unconstitutional.
In affirming Judge William Downing’s decision striking down Tim Eyman’s I‑1366 in its entirety, the high court both did its job and rescued the Legislature from having to worry about losing $8 billion in funding for schools and other vital public services by refusing to comply with Tim Eyman’s demand for a constitutional amendment sabotaging the majority vote clause of our Constitution.
($8 billion is how much money we would have lost through 2021 had Section 2 of I‑1366 gone into effect last month, slashing the sales tax, which provides most of the funding for our state’s K‑12 schools, colleges, and universities.)
With I‑1366 buried, the Legislature has one less problem to deal with.
It may be out of session and most of its members are focused on getting reelected, but the 2017 session is due to begin in just over seven months, and there’s plenty of advance work to be done to ensure it produces badly needed revenue reforms and a sound budget. As the Supreme Court has noted, the Legislature simply hasn’t been delivering for Washington’s kids and families, and that needs to change.
Those members who are assured of returning (unopposed legislators as well as senators who aren’t on the ballot this year) should all be investing substantive time and energy getting ready for the forthcoming long session. A top priority needs to be identifying solutions for fixing Washington’s upside-down tax code.
The Legislature ought to start by levying a capital gains tax on high earners.
Contrary to what right wing think tanks like the Washington Policy Center say, a capital gains tax can be thoughtfully crafted to reliably provide a modest amount of badly-needed revenue each biennium. Reuven Carlyle and other legislators have been working on this, and they deserve everyone’s full attention and support as they continue to work on producing a polished, refined bill for 2017. Oregon and Idaho levy capital gains taxes, and there’s no reason why we can’t as well.
Past NPI research showed a majority of likely 2015 (odd-year!) voters support a capital gains tax. What’s more, an impressive forty-three percent of respondents in that survey said they strongly supported levying a capital gains tax.
Next, the Legislature should get rid of tax breaks that are no longer serving the public interest, and pass a new accountability law that forces corporations like Boeing to automatically pay back subsidies they received if they do not deliver on their job creation promises, or if they eliminate Washington-based jobs.
The Legislature should also start working on reforming property taxes.
Eyman’s I‑747 should be repealed, and a homestead exemption instituted to ensure that middle and low income families’ tax obligations are fair.
Ultimately, a solution that makes property taxes based on wealth would be ideal, though implementation might require a constitutional amendment.
To help school districts with facility construction and modernization (needed to implement lower class sizes), the Legislature should change the Constitution to lower the threshold for passage of bonds from three-fifths (60%) to a simple majority. One proposal we’ve seen to do this would require school districts to submit bonds at general elections; districts would not have the option of sending bond propositions to voters at special elections like they do now.
If that’s something Democrats and Republicans can agree on, then let’s get it approved and placed before voters.