Washington legislators, remember your paramount duty
Washington legislators, remember your paramount duty (NPI illustration)

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts

2 replies on “Eyman’s I‑1366 is buried; now the Legislature needs to get back to work on school funding”

  1. It’s still a trav­es­ty that this ini­tia­tive passed. Very good news, though. 

Comments are closed.