Washblog

Why Aren't We Fighting for a State Income Tax?

I am getting really tired here:

I've been asked to sign petitions and send emails by almost any advocacy group that can be named.

The WEA opposes a reform bill that they say is an unfunded mandate, but demand money for the schools.  And, no one seems to be able to quantify how much federal money we give up by not passing this bill.

The Democrats passed resolutions calling for 50-50 cuts and new revenues.  Now I think that is really dangerous because it accepts the idea that we really have no responsibilities toward our people and just accepts cutting the already bare bones government investment in our human capital.  It also just pushes the pain down to the locals.

I'm not supporting anything anymore that asks for a half crumb versus a quarter of a crumb without demanding a state income tax.  That kind of internecine battle is just as self-interested as the wealthy peoples' resistance to income taxes.

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...the voters will have to be truly convinced that they won't end up with a sales tax and income tax that equal double today's tax levels.

educate first (and find a way to actually guaranteee it won't haappen), then the fight will be a lot easier.

"...if you need a goat fu%#*@, cnn will do it..." --john oliver, "the daily show", 10/12/2009

by fake consultant on Thu Apr 16, 2009 at 08:38:18 AM PST

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...for writing this. I completely agree and you can read more of my opinion (with a link back to your piece here as well as a nod to Goldy who has done a good job recently pushing for a more public debate) over at the Seattle Examiner


Peace,
Chad (The Left) Shue

by The Left Shue on Thu Apr 16, 2009 at 02:56:29 PM PST

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You've brought up a number of issues, each one of which could be a giant post in itself. But that's okay. You brought up the issues to get a discussion going, which is a good idea.

Education Reform Bills

I've read both the House and Senate versions of the reform bill, something for which I deserve a medal. Maybe there should be a Special Medal of Valor for Courage under Legislative Duress.

Anyway, the Senate has passed its version 2.0 of the reform bill, which will have to be reconciled with the House's version. Version 2.0 is better than version 1.0, and the governor has stated that the bills must have a statutory requirement to link implementation with availability of funding. It can't just be a legislative "intention." In this rare instance, the governor is correct. The legislature, I assume, is not ultimately stark raving mad and will heed her advice when they pass a revised bill. On the other hand, maybe they are.

In the meantime, the WEA is also right about unfunded mandates. The reality is that every legislator and reformist who has said that a change in the definition of basic education will drive funding has it precisely backwards. They don't know what they're talking about. In fact, funding drives the definition of basic education. For example, the reform bills include in their redefinition of basic education a provision that there has to be supplemental instruction for students for whom English is not a first language.  Sounds reasonable. Except that that legislative language really will not specify what kind of funding the schools will receive for this supplemental instruction. It doesn't specify whether supplemental consists of after-school tutoring, one hour of language arts instruction, two hours or three. In the end, what is supplemental will be whatever the state decides to fund. That's why funding drives the definition of basic education, not the other way around. Anyone who says otherwise is deluded.

Revenue: Olympia Democrats in Disarray

Lisa Brown and Jeanne Kohl-Welles floated the idea of an income tax, and Ross Hunter came out against it. He was followed by the governor, who issued one of the more bizarre press releases to come out of Olympia in a long time. But let's not go into that again.

Then Hans Dunshee floated the idea of expanding the bond limits and raising up to $3 billion for education construction. The governor and Frank Chopp seemed to support the concept. This funding would have opened up all kinds of interesting possibilities, but the state treasurer and other Democrats came out against it. So, poof--no more has been heard about it.

Now Eric Pettigrew has introduced a bill to raise the sales tax to fund Basic Health, but he has openly wondered if there are enough votes in the House to pass it. That can only mean one thing: not all Democrats (of course) support it.

Olympia Democrats are in disarray. There's no real leadership down there. It's a disgrace.

by DWE on Thu Apr 16, 2009 at 07:23:26 PM PST

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   Border Cities and Counties. Let alone everyone else who has moderate income. The bad thing is that not a lot of this is the fault of the Washington Democrat Majority, but the disaster is happening on our watch. The balance in the legislature will narrow, maybe even this year if we lose the 16th distict House seat. Almost certainly next year.

Dave Gibney Pullman

by gibney on Thu Apr 16, 2009 at 11:05:43 PM PST

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If you want to know exactly where the legislature is right now with the education "reform" bill, go here.

This is the Senate's amendment of the House's version (2261). You'll see that it's full of good intentions. Literally. Check out the number of times you find the word "intent" or "intends" in the bill. The governor earlier criticized the reform bills here. She thought it wasn't good enough to have good intentions; there needed to be a statutory requirement to prevent implementation without funding. However, in her typically idiotic fashion, she's changed her mind, as reported here.

In the current version, the legislature "intends" to fully implement and fund the new definition by 2018. The earlier House version intended to begin implementation in 2011.

So what in this bill requires that the state only begin implementation when they have the funding? Nothing. What requires that the state implement this bill at all? Nothing. Lots of things are intended; nothing is required.

What requires the state to adequately fund the areas of education that are newly deemed "basic?" Nothing. In my pet example, basic education is supposed to include "supplemental instruction" for students for whom English is not a first language. What is supplemental? It's not defined. Well, actually, in practice, "supplemental" will be whatever the legislature funds. Which is to say: funding drives the definition basic education, not the other way around.

Which is why Olympia Democrats are not reality-based. They might as well be Republicans.

Don't you think this diary should be recommended?  

by DWE on Sat Apr 18, 2009 at 08:41:03 AM PST

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On page 13, there is a provision that calls for "supplemental instruction and services for underachieving students through the learning assistance program" (LAP). The allocation for the instruction and services is supposed to cover "an extended day and extended school year."

We have something like that now. It's called after-school tutoring and "Summer College," which is a euphemism for summer school.

I'm all for closing the achievement gap, which the  legislature "intends" to address with this bill. And there's ample evidence that much of that gap is due to "summer learning loss." But what evidence is there that traditional WASL prep courses during the summer actually increase academic achievement. I note that my students' reading scores went down after they attended summer school.

I'm also skeptical that after-school tutoring programs can raise reading scores. What my students need to do after school is read and talk about what they're reading with their peers--not sit in the library and get "tutored."

What the legislature should do if it really wants to close the achievement gap is examine the mounds of research on summer learning loss at Johns Hopkins University and other universities. Then it  should create provisions for effective summer programs and specify the funding source for the programs in the form of a tax.

But, of course, they won't do this because they'd rather write idiotic reform bills and pretend they'll make a difference.

by DWE on Sat Apr 18, 2009 at 09:49:26 AM PST

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From my comment on SPPE
I think it is ludicrous to try and establish a state income tax on anyone right now.  And to single out a specific group in the state to tax regardless of their income is not a good way forward either.  Not to mention discriminatory. I read on WashBlog someone said the mass exodus of the wealthy would ensue if we taxed their income as happened in other states and they would take the jobs with them. Huh? Nah, I think NAFTA, CAFTA and the WTO did quite well to establish that move.

Yes, I agree we need new revenue but we also must think of sustainable revenue. Recall what has happened since the car tab tax reduction?  The consequences of increase or decrease of our tax revenue must include the bigger picture. Not just the immediate quick fix.
There are many avenues we could go down to help alleviate some of our budget shortfalls. But Oly seems unwilling to travel down those roads for fear of retaliation from Big B and Big Ag. They [Big B and Big Ag] are holding Oly and the Gov hostage. Thus they are fearful of making any move towards reducing any of their tax breaks, subsidies or as the Gov calls them, incentives. No, they have even talked of increasing them!

Why not bring back the luxury tax, eh?  Raise taxes on liquor, beer or wine?  Put tariffs on the import of apple juice concentrate from China. We would get as much response I'm sure.

As you look at the budget cuts Oly is proposing think about who and what  they may affect and the long term effects of those cuts.

We know for sure once there are gone they are not to return.
And we shall hear the loud roar of the NIMBY's returning.

by monam on Sat Apr 18, 2009 at 10:20:51 AM PST

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On page 7 of the bill, the legislature would up the graduation requirements from 19 to 24. Maybe this is a good thing. However, it has cost implications, as any teacher knows.

In a perfect world, all the students will magically meet these new requirements. In the real world, more students will be at risk for giving up and dropping out when they fail classes.

Some students, of course, will wake up in their junior and senior years, and take the credit retrieval courses. These courses aren't free. If public schools pay for them, then there will be a cost to upping the graduation requirements.

And then there will be the costs of academic intervention programs designed to keep students from giving up and dropping out when faced with more demanding graduation requirements.

And where is the funding for all this? Look for it in vain in 2261.

by DWE on Sat Apr 18, 2009 at 10:27:13 AM PST

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In section 112, page 23, the bill states that it "is the intent of the legislature that no increased programmatic or instructional expectations be imposed upon schools or school districts without an accompanying increase in resources as necessary to support those increased expectations."

And because the legislature intends that it won't happen, it won't happen. We're saved!

by DWE on Sat Apr 18, 2009 at 10:38:53 AM PST

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After pages and pages and pages on transportation (this is part of a definition of basic education?), we finally come to this on page 49:

Beginning no earlier than September 1, 2011, award of a professional certificate shall be based on a minimum of two years of successful teaching experience as defined by the board and on the results of the evaluation authorized under RCW 28A.410.210(14) and under this section, and may not require candidates to enroll in a professional certification program.

I hope this means what it seems to mean: no more pro-cert programs. We earn our pro cert when we demonstrate that we've met certain professional standards. Of course, we don't actually know what those standards are because, if you examine the RCW, the Washington professional educator standards board isn't due to establish performance standards until January 2010 . . .

by DWE on Sat Apr 18, 2009 at 11:26:09 AM PST

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There are no statutory requirements to implement and fund the provisions of this bill. There are no requirements to link implementation to funding.

The bill is one giant exercise in legislative intent.

On page 24, the bill does call for convening a technical working group that will develop funding formulas for implementing the provisions of the bill, examine revenue sources, present options to the legislature, and submit its recommendations to the legislature by December 1, 2009.

But nothing in the bill requires the legislature to act on these recommendations--ever. It only states that the legislature intends to implement them by 2018.

In her original critique, the governor argued the legislature should establish in statue that the legal definition of basic education doesn't change until there is the funding to make it operational.  She argued that it shouldn't just be a legislative intent. For some bizarre reason, she dropped this argument when the Senate adopted the 2018 time frame. Apparently she imagines that education funding will somehow materialize by then. However, she was right the first time: the legislature's intent not to implement the new definition without funding doesn't keep it from happening.

And as I've argued before, funding drives the definition of basic education, not the other way around. Thus, the entire bill is based on a false assumption. What is enough money, for example, to fulfill the ELL or LAP provisions of basic education? It's what the legislature ultimately provides.

If the legislature fails to implement its new definition of basic education, can it be sued? Most certainly it can be, but that doesn't mean the court will force the legislature to increase taxes to fund education. As in a recent Oregon decision, a court may rule that the state has failed in its funding obligations but decline to force them to live up to their obligations:

We allowed the plaintiffs' petition for review, and now conclude that the legislature has failed to fund the Oregon public school system at the level sufficient to meet the quality education goals established by law and that plaintiffs were entitled to a declaratory judgment to that effect.  However, we also conclude that, in adopting Article VIII, section 8, Oregon voters did not intend to achieve the level of funding required in that constitutional provision through judicial enforcement.

My view is that as long as we have legislators and a governor who live in the Olympia bubble, out of touch with reality, we'll never see a properly funded education system. The first thing we have to do is to wake them up. I'm not sure how to do that.

by DWE on Sat Apr 18, 2009 at 12:35:13 PM PST

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 The following message was sent to Representative Eric Pettigrew (D), Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos (D) and Senator Adam Kline (D)  of the 37th  district.
TO:       Representative Eric Pettigrew

CC:       Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos
Senator Adam Kline

SUBJECT:       Sales Tax Increase for Healthcare

MESSAGE:       Dear 37th District Legislators:

I have been increasingly distressed to see the feeding frenzy among advocates to preserve funding for 'their' clearly very necessary populations in this time of difficulty. Distressed because these populations have been living on the very edge of existence, and have been increasing, for MANY years -- likely a full generation.

The slogan needs to be: 'Thou shall not kill', and we seem to be just saying 'Thou shall not kill MORE people'. Believe me, underemployment, under education and homelessness have already resulted in more people jailed and more people in positions to die due to bad or no jobs and no health care.

We have the opportunity to change the agenda. The legislature, instead of leading, instead of clearly breaking down the budget -- where it comes from and where it goes and WHO it comes from -- in SIMPLE terms on the front page of the papers, instead of SHOWING the value of tax reform, has been stuck in internecine sideshow battles that have NOTHING to do with the economy and all we have as tools are obstruficating budget analyses. Where is our version of budget.gov?

It's TIME for a seismic shift in thinking, mass communication about how it really works, and standing up for what is right. You'd think Shrub and Dino were running things the way that legislators read the Tea Party protest. Do you not see ignorance? By the way, the blog dedicated to architecture in Seattle saw it more clearly than you guys: http://noisetank.com/hugeasscity/2009/04/15/is-this-what-all-those-teabaggers-were-so-riled-up-about -today/

Gotta say, sorry I will not be supporting a sales tax increase. Much as it pains me, I will not support the most regressive form of taxation to put another finger in the completely crumbled dike.

Regards,
Kathryn Keller
PCO 37-1893

RESPONSE:       Kathryn has requested a response to this message.

 

by ktkeller on Sat Apr 18, 2009 at 07:43:46 PM PST

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Well! Lower taxes are the only real check on the expanding size and scope of the federal government. If we want smaller government, our best strategy is to reduce the amount of money Congress has to play with.

David Off
working as a web designer for ProWeb365

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