Senate “Education by Starvation” Proposal Proves that New Revenue is Needed
An education- funding proposal scheduled for a hearing today by the Senate Ways & Means Committee fails in its goal to fund education while also forcing deep cuts to investments that kids and families need to be successful and secure. This measure is a distraction from the central problem facing Washington state policymakers today – the state’s flawed, 1930s era revenue system. Passing it now would simply pawn tough choices off on future policymakers and Washingtonians.
Rather than raising additional resources to meet the needs of our state, Senate Bill 5063 proposes to rearrange existing, insufficient resources by dedicating two-thirds of all state revenue growth to education for the next 10 years. That’s tantamount to rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship.
As the graph shows, if this rigid formula were in place in the coming biennium, it would fall $2.5 billion short of making statutory and court-ordered investments in education. Simply diverting two-thirds of revenue growth to education ($1.8 billion) would not come close to providing the $4.3 billion in resources needed to fund increased enrollments, implement voter-approved initiatives, and make McCleary investments.
Additionally, SB 5063 would result in disastrous cuts to public health, safety, childcare, and services for seniors. The graph shows that resources available for all non-education spending ($900 million) would fall $500 million short of what’s needed to maintain current commitments in these and other investments that support a successful educational experience for kids.
Without raising new revenue, we can’t meet our required spending obligations, let alone make additional investments that make college more affordable, provide high-quality early learning for children, treat people suffering from mental illness, or give public employees a pay increases.
The real challenge facing lawmakers is our outdated revenue system that fails to keep pace with the state’s economy. Although revenues will be higher in the 2015-17 biennium when compared to the current budget cycle, when it comes to tracking economic activity, tax revenue is in decline and will continue to fall without significant reforms.
Enacting a capital gains tax, as proposed by Governor Inslee, would significantly boost revenue while impacting less than one percent of Washington households, almost exclusively those earning more than $490,000 a year. That’s the kind of solution Washingtonians need- one that begins to equalize the playing field for who pays taxes and ensures that we can afford to invest in a high quality of life for everyone in the state.