As a parent, who lives in the 36th Congressional District, and thus a constituent, State Senator ReuvenCarlyle, I understand his concern that Washington State is able to fully support our public schools. Also, Washington State must address the climate crisis through building rail to connect our community in the Puget Sound region. claims that Sound Transit 3 will jeopardize funding for the public schools. I don’t agree with. It does not. Puget Sound residents should reject this false choice. We can both vote in favor of ST3 and fully fund public schools.
Here’s what happened. In the decision of 2012, the State Supreme Court held that the legislature was failing to fulfil its constitutional and paramount duty to fully support our public schools. In 2014, the Court held the legislature responsible for failing to comply.
There are many options open to the legislature to find the money needed to fund public schools. They could close millions of dollars worth of corporate tax loopholes. Sen. Carlyle was a pioneer in addressing these unaccountable taxes. They could tax incomes and capital gains of Washington residents. They could adopt a carbon taxes and direct some of their revenues to schools.
The legislature may also consider raising the sales and property taxes, even if the ST3 plan is approved by voters. Though a higher tax on sales has been discussed among legislators, more comprehensive proposals focused on the state property taxes. This issue is at center of Senator Carlyle’s complaint. Therefore, it is worth further discussions.
Sen. Carlyle stated that “it’s virtually impossible for us to achieve that level in education funding without reforming our state property tax and local schools levies.” The transportation finance plan makes this complicated but necessary project even more complex.” In reality, new revenue can be added without raising state taxes. As you can see, the state has numerous sources of revenue that can be used to meet the same goals without having to increase the state property tax.
ST3 might cause problems with one of the various education funding solutions. A proposal to eliminate local school levies would replace them with a higher tax from the state in core Puget Sound areas. The Seattle property tax would be increased by the levy exchange. It is expected to result in a substantial increase of between $1.13 and $1.37 on each $1,000 of assessed worth. The swap would not create new revenue for schools. The swap would not generate additional revenue for schools.
It’s important to keep in mind that the proposal for a levy exchange is already complex and politically controversial. Jay Inslee has consistently opposed it as have many other Democratic legislators. It is most popular in conservative Republicans’ districts, which would see a significant reduction in their local tax rate.
Sen. Carlyle also mentioned the 1% annual limitation on the rate at which property taxes are increased. Tim Eyman, who initiated a 1% limit to property tax growth, has ruled that this limit is no longer in place. The limit was passed by the legislature in 2007, just one year after Sen. Carlyle was first elected to the State House. The legislature has the power to change or eliminate this limit, which has effectively cut funding for local governments. To make a swap for levy, the legislature may need to do this.
ST3 approval does not mean that voters will prevent the legislature funding public education with the state property. It’s possible that ST3 could make it more difficult or impossible for legislators and to strike a simple deal regarding the state income tax. But that’s a political issue. It’s not like suggesting ST3 would cost our public schools. It just doesn’t.
Sound Transit does have limited funding options. Sound Transit is not like the legislature. They have what the legislature has given to them. That ballot is ST3. It is unfair to attribute Sound Transit’s and the Puget Sound commuters to the continuing failure to properly support our schools by the legislature.
ST3 being defeated would be catastrophic for our area and climate. It is unlikely that the legislature would present a similar comprehensive proposal for mass transit to the voters. Instead, the legislature will be focusing on education funding. They will not vote on a new ST funding proposition until 2019 at the latest. Legislators won’t be interested in revisiting this issue if ST3 are defeated.
In other words, the defeat of ST3 will likely delay the timeline for bringing railway to Sen. Carlyle’s constituents in the 2040s or the 2050s. Our region already suffers from the shortsighted rejection to mass transit funding since Forward Thrust was defeated back in 1970. Nearly 50 year later, the system still has not been built as planned. Our cities still suffer from pollution and congestion.
Our public schools must have a 21st-century revenue plan that is bold and innovative. The legislature must finally present it in 2017. They will be able to do it if they are able to pass ST3. Voting for ST3 is my vote. I will continue to work hard to convince the legislature that public schools can be fully funded.