In my column today, I suggest lawmakers take another look at the property tax swap proposed last year. A couple of issues prompted the suggestion.
- A report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities finding that most states have not returned to inflation-adjusted pre-recession per pupil spending. Comparatively, Washington looks pretty good.
- The legislature’s 2013 report to the state Supreme Court regarding progress toward meeting the school funding increases required by the Court’s McCleary decision. The report acknowledges progress, but cites reliance on one-time revenues.
- Our report published earlier this year finding Washington relies much more on state-level funding for education than do most other states. Local property taxes play a larger role in school funding in most states.
From the column:
The swap had bipartisan origins, with Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina) and then-Sen. Joe Zarelli (R-Ridgefield) concluding that raising the state property tax while resetting local levies could significantly boost state aid and satisfy the demand for “regular and dependable” revenues.
…The issue is politically sensitive. Property taxes in Washington are comparatively low, but still unpopular. How much new money would go to education depends on how much levy capacity is transferred to the state and where the local levy is reset.
It’s complicated, which means it’s difficult. But it still looks like lawmakers’ best vehicle for satisfying McCleary.