NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

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.

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