Higher taxes and less school in WA? | Groshart

If you haven’t started your holiday shopping, you might want to hold on to your wallet. Gov. Chris Gregoire wants the state to dig deeper into your pocket to help bail out the state budget.

Gregoire’s plan is two-fold:

1. Boost the sales tax by a half-cent, and

2. Have it “sunset” in three years.

We have two concerns with that:

1. It’s another half-cent tax on what already is nearly (.095) a 10 percent tax on just about every dollar you spend, and

2. Does anyone really expect that a tax, once in place, will ever go away?

Gregoire says her new tax would bring in close to $500 million annually and be largely used to help fund education. Before you applaud, recall that this is the same person who just recently proposed cutting your kid’s school year by four days. Apparently schools — and our kids’ education — are only important if we pay more for them.

Gregoire, of course, knows the fallacy in this. The state constitution says clearly that education is the paramount duty of the state. It doesn’t say anything about having to raise taxes to do this. The state may or may not need an extra $500 million, but schools aren’t the place you cut when money is tight.

That’s the same problem with her earlier plan to cut the school year by four days. Doing so would save the state $99 million in the 2012-13 school year by not having to pay teachers for those four days. But that means that our kids get cheated out of four days of instruction. Does anyone really think our kids can get by with less education?

The state faces some tough financial questions. Legislators are due back in Olympia on Monday to deal with a $2 billion hole in the state’s budget.

But that doesn’t mean that higher taxes are — or ought to be — the first choice for a solution. After all, it’s not as if taxpayers’ money is burning a hole in their pockets. Quite the opposite.

Consumer prices in the Seattle area have risen 3.8 percent over the past 12 months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the same time, take-home pay has gone up 1.7 percent. Do the math and you’ll see we’re falling behind.

Drive to work? You’re even worse off. The price of gasoline in the Seattle area is up 26 percent since last year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And that means energy prices are up 16.5 percent. There are more — lots more — things that cost more today than they did since October 2010.

We’re not saying the task facing the Legislature is an easy one. Far from it. But higher taxes should only be considered as a last resort.

The state isn’t there yet.


Craig Groshart is editor of the Bellevue Reporter, a sister newspaper of The Mirror. Contact: cgroshart@bellevuereporter.com.


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