A levy swap isn’t on its own a horrible thing. Poor districts should still be able to educate their children. But in the absence of new money, it’s just taking money from districts that have been doing a better job educating children, if because they can afford it or if they’re more willing to pay. Goldy explained this ad nauseum when Rob McKenna was running and losing on levy swaps.
I’m happy to pay for education in the whole state. Let’s fund significantly more education at the state level. I’m all for it! Ideally with an income tax, but absent that, the most progressive tax we can get through the legislature.
But what we shouldn’t do is take money away from some districts or force the Puget Sound to pay for it while the rest of the state doesn’t. And that’s what a levy swap will do. As long as that’s the GOP position, it’s never going to fly.
“This would be the biggest property tax increase in state history,” said Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, adding that the latest estimates show residents facing the biggest jump in their property taxes would be in the Puget Sound region, while some getting the biggest break would be in Eastern Washington and other rural parts of the state.
Most property owners in Spokane-area school districts would see a drop in their local property taxes over the four years needed to phase in the changes, although the amounts vary because of significant differences in current school district levies and the complicated laws that govern them.
Property taxes in Spokane School District, for example, would go down most years between 2018 and 2021 – as much as $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2021 – but up by .01 per $1,000 in 2019.
Ranker and other Senate Democrats have a competing plan designed to address the same problem of a system the state Supreme Court says is unconstitutional: using local tax money to pay for a basic part of public education, the salary of classroom teachers. Their solution is a tax increase, plain and simple: a capital gains tax on any resident who collects more than $250,000 a year on investment earnings. Money raised by that tax would be used to replace the money local districts now contribute to teacher salaries. That amount varies from district to district, but the amount a district receives from the state’s capital gains tax they would lower the amount they could collect from local taxpayers, so everyone would get a property tax reduction and only about 7,500 residents would pay the capital gains tax.
Neither one has everything I would want, but at least one actually has new money for education. If the problem is that there isn’t enough money for education, that seems like the thing at the outset you should deal with. I don’t understand how you can try to take education dollars from Seattle and Bellevue and say you’re supporting education statewide.