A plan for school funding, fairer taxes

What if there was a proposal before the Legislature this January that would:

  • Reduce property taxes between 20 percent to 30 percent, eliminating the state’s portion of the property tax and limiting the amount local school levies could collect for basic education to 15 percent;
  • Lower the state sales tax by 1 percentage point, from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent;
  • Reduce the business and occupation tax for service businesses to 1 percent from 1.5 percent and reduce the tax for all other businesses to the 0.29 percent rate that Boeing currently pays; and
  • Put before the voters a constitutional amendment that would require a 60 percent super majority vote in the Legislature to make any changes to major tax rates?

OK. Yes, there’s a catch. But before we talk about that, consider the tax reforms above.

A reduction of the property tax would provide a great benefit to seniors and others on fixed incomes who are less able to absorb increases in their property tax bills.

Lowering the sales tax would benefit everyone, particularly lower-income families most affected by what is considered the most regressive state tax system in the nation.

Creating two basic rates for B&O taxes would simplify the system and take some pressure off small businesses and start-ups.

And a constitutional amendment regarding legislative votes on taxes would deliver the core principle of what Tim Eyman and those who have voted for many of his initiatives have sought for years: a higher hurdle for tax increases.

With those reforms on the plus side, state Treasurer James McIntire is hoping to continue a discussion he launched last spring that would implement a 5 percent flat tax on personal income. Under McIntire’s proposal, the first $20,000 would be exempt for individuals, $40,000 for joint filers and then $5,000 more for each additional child, providing a $50,000 exemption for a family of four.

The latest wrinkle in McIntire’s plan also has the advantage of helping the state solve its education funding problems. All income tax revenue would be dedicated to education: 75 percent for K-12, 25 percent for higher education.

The state Supreme Court has ordered the Legislature to amply fund basic education as a constitutional mandate, which would end the practice of local school levies being used to provide a significant portion of salaries and benefits for teachers and other staff. Statewide about $3.5 billion from local levies now goes to basic education. McIntire suggests wiping that from local levies and replacing it with an estimated $4 billion from a state income tax.

Taking in all the reforms, those making less than $58,000 a year would pay less tax as a percentage of their income; those making between $58,000 and $188,000 would pay more, with about 9 percent in total taxes; and those making more than $188,000 would pay about 10 percent in total taxes.

“We need a new system,” McIntire says, as much for improved tax fairness as to meet the state’s education needs.

McIntire is realistic about his proposal’s chances but believes that unless the Legislature shows significant progress in funding education, the state Supreme Court, which has already found the Legislature in contempt and is fining the state $100,000 a day, may help drive the conversation.

There is room and reason for adjustments here and there, but McIntire’s plan has much to recommend it. It deserves a full discussion in the Legislature and by the public.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Friday, Dec. 1

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

From the bodycam footage of Everett police officer Ryan Greely and footage from Molly Wright, Wright films officer Greely before he arrests her for obstructing a law enforcement officer on Aug. 10, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Screenshot from a video provided by Molly Wright)
Editorial: Duties on both sides of camera during arrests

The right to record police activity is clear, but so is the need to respect the safety of officers and others.

Schwab: Rudolph knows rain, dear, but the fog story’s a hoax

Coming down from a Italian gelato high, Sid muses on calculus, puns and a certain reindeer myth.

Harrop: Why fascination and fealty to Ivy League education?

Many of its graduates have benefited from privilege, and it shows in a lack of maturity.

Comment: One-sided narratives lock children into never-ending war

Palestinian and Israeli children must learn the full history of what has led their leaders to this point.

Comment: A warning in guilty plea by shooting suspect’s father

Family and friends must be on alert for signs that point to the potential for deadly shootings.

Editorial cartoons for Thursday, Nov. 30

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Macro photo of tooth wheel mechanism with imprinted RECEIVE, GIVE concept words
Editorial: Get back into charitable habit for Giving Tuesday

Inflation sapped donations for charities last year; things may be looking up this year for more.

Owners of Country Rose/The Paint Bungalow, Donna Mains (left) and Kathleen Shalan in their shop in October, 2021 in Arlington. The gift store also stocks Annie Sloan paint as well as being a women's apparel boutique. (Andy Bronson / The Herald file photo)
Editorial: Stroll, don’t scroll on Small Business Saturday

Shopping local stores is a great way to find gifts and supports local economies and your neighbors.

Seniors aren’t the problem with Social Security funding

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Catherine Rampell in a recent column about Social Security,… Continue reading

Questioning whether climate change contributes to stronger storms

In a recent commentary, the author states that hurricanes are the result… Continue reading

Comment: Is longer truce in Mideast too much to hope for?

The bargaining to release hostages for prisoners has worked, but overall goals have not changed.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.