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Voters still want to bolster funding for public schools with a capital gains tax, NPI poll finds

The McCleary case may have come to an end today, but Washington voters continue to believe public schools are underfunded, and support has grown while opposition has fallen for levying a capital gains tax on the wealthy to ensure our state meets its paramount duty of providing an amply funded education for all children residing within its borders, NPI’s most recent statewide survey has found.

58% of six hundred and seventy-five likely 2018 Washington voters surveyed by Public Policy Polling last month said they support a capital gains tax to fund education, up from 57% one year ago. 37% said they opposed it, down by four points from one year ago. 40% expressed strong support for a capital gains tax.

Respondents were asked:

Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose taxing the capital gains of wealthy individuals to help pay for public schools, colleges and universities?

Answers were as follows:

  • Support: 58%
    • Strongly support: 40%
    • Somewhat support: 18%
  • Oppose: 37%
    • Somewhat oppose: 10%
    • Strongly oppose: 27%
  • Not sure: 5%

Our survey of six hundred and seventy-five likely 2018 Washington State voters was in the field May 22nd-23rd, 2018. The survey used a blended methodology with automated phone calls to landlines and online interviews of cell phone only respondents. The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling for NPI, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.8% at the 95% confidence level.

NPI began asking Washingtonians about their views on a capital gains tax in 2015, finding 55% in support then, with 43% strongly supportive.

Our 2018 finding continues to show support above this baseline, demonstrating voters still want to see the wealthy step up and pay their fair share to support our public schools, colleges, and universities.

One year after legislators increased property taxes in urban and suburban school districts at the insistence of Republicans, voters continue to believe a capital gains tax is an appropriate solution to ongoing funding problems in our public schools.

In the 2018 short session, House Democrats once again proposed a capital gains tax to fund public education, and it received a key committee vote.

Despite strong support among Senate Democrats, the proposal, championed by retiring Representative Kris Lytton, did not make it out of the Legislature.

But our research shows voters remain enthusiastic about this idea. They want a capital gains tax to be included in the Legislature’s 2019 agenda.

Our survey also found that voters across the state continue to believe new revenue is needed to support public education, despite the state’s briefs claiming they have complied with the Constitution’s paramount duty clause (Article IX, Section 1).

Respondents were asked:

Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the following statement: Washington’s public schools are underfunded, and we need to raise state revenue to fully fund them?

61% of respondents said they agreed with that statement, while only 37% disagreed. Answers in each category were as follows:

  • Agree: 61%
    • Strongly agree: 37%
    • Somewhat agree: 24%
  • Disagree: 34%
    • Somewhat disagree: 18%
    • Strongly disagree: 16%
  • Not sure: 5%

Last year, the Legislature adopted an education funding plan designed to comply with the Supreme Court’s orders in the McCleary case. Justices found that lawmakers’ work was incomplete, and last fall ordered them to come up with another $1 billion in funding, which legislators delivered in the 2018 session.

Many parents, teachers, and school administrators believe the new funding is still insufficient to meet the needs of students in the classroom.

The Olympian editorialized several weeks ago that the “state is not done fixing K-12 school funding,” noting that gaps in essential funding persist, and school districts are facing another funding cliff next year.

The consistent support found in NPI’s polling for new, progressive revenue to fund public schools should give legislators all the confidence they need to pursue reforms that will not just amply provide for the education of all youth as our Constitution requires, but do it in a way that is just, responsible, and equitable.