GOP cool to Inslee’s school funding proposal

Gov. Jay Inslee’s call to raise money for schools by closing tax breaks put the education funding debate back in the laps of lawmakers this week and in the conversation with voters this fall.

Inslee’s plan to generate $200 million in new tax revenue by eliminating or revising seven exemptions is a slimmed down version of the billion-dollar plus tax package rejected by a Republican-led majority in the Senate a year ago.

There’s no evidence things will turn out differently for him and his Democratic allies in 2014 because the balance of power is the same.

Republicans say lawmakers put roughly $1 billion additional dollars into schools in 2013 and can wait to make another hefty investment in 2015.

Inslee didn’t seem concerned about the prospect of another defeat when he unveiled his scheme Tuesday.

Rather, he sounded as if he was test-driving messages Democratic candidates can use this fall as the party tries to regain a working majority in the Senate.

He spoke of the need to fill the “gas tank of reform” and satisfy the Supreme Court’s demand for “concrete action” to fully fund the basic education of 1 million public school students.

And he cast Republicans as a reluctant bunch whose minds might change before the Legislature is set to adjourn in early March.

“The other party has said they don’t want to spend another dime on our children’s education this year,” he told reporters, adding later he hoped it was only “a temporary condition.”

And he suggested lawmakers are wrong to think voting for his tax plan to fund schools will doom their re-election.

“I believe very deeply that it is a winning issue for a candidate to face his public and say ‘I stood up for funding our schools and our kids’,” he said. “I will tell you candidates who do that are going to win elections this November. I believe this is where the people are in the state of Washington.”

Time will tell if he’s right.

Students propose legislation

Two Snohomish High seniors incited a little partisan kerfuffle recently with their proposal to require many unemployed adults to perform community service in order to keep receiving benefit checks

Students Kristen Hoffmann and Marissa Martz came up with the idea in their government class and pitched it to lawmakers in a visit to Olympia earlier this month.

Community service, they reasoned, could provide new skills and job opportunities for those seeking work.

“The intention is not to punish people on unemployment,” Hoffmann said. “It is to open doors, reduce fraud, keep people moving and help them find work.”

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate were sold on the concept and sponsored bills in each chamber to put it into law. The identical bills would require most able-bodied individuals aged 18 to 65 to do at least eight hours of community service for every four weeks of unemployment benefits received.

Senate Democrats denounced the legislation as a punitive measure.

“Our friends and neighbors seeking jobs are already struggling to pay the bills and feed their kids in addition to looking for work,” said Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma in a statement. “Community service is an honorable pursuit, but forcing someone into it simply to maintain their family’s lifeline is downright cold.”

As of Wednesday, no hearings had been set on the bills.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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