There is one cut in Gov. Gregoire’s preliminary all-cuts budget proposal that the Seattle Times opposes:
The proposed cut the governor would buy back, and that we would, too, is in levy-equalization money for public schools. This is money that keeps a minimum level of schooling in property-poor districts. This page has long believed that the first and best social program is education.
Hmm. I agree that levy-equalization is good public policy. Unfortunately, I wonder if it’s bad politics?
The problem is, many of those “property-poor” districts who benefit most from levy-equalization are also those whose voters most reliably oppose giving state government the necessary taxing authority to pay for things like, you know, levy-equalization.
Understand, this is money that comes out of the pockets of taxpayers in property-rich (?) districts like Seattle and the Eastside suburbs. And for the most part, we don’t mind, because we’re good progressives who support progressive policies like levy-equalization. But when the rest of the state won’t allow us to tax ourselves to pay for the level of education our children want and need, well, that kinda throws a kink in the whole social contract thing.
So perhaps, if the state cuts off levy-equalization, maybe folks in these property-poor districts will think twice before voting against the tax hikes necessary to pay for it? Perhaps the loss of crucial levy-equalization money might create a broader statewide consensus supporting adequate K-12 education funding? Perhaps subsidies like levy-equalization undermine support for tax structure reform the same way Medicare undermines support for health care reform amongst the elderly?