Voters: K-12 solutions should involve reforms, not higher taxes
OLYMPIA – While this year’s Legislature considers proposals for the biggest tax increases in state history, voters in Washington’s 35th Legislative District are urging lawmakers to just say no.
Overwhelming opposition to tax increases is the most striking result of Sen. Tim Sheldon’s annual survey, sent last month to frequent voters in his South Sound, southwest Kitsap County and Hood Canal-area district. Also of interest is the level of engagement – participation increased dramatically over previous years.
“The last presidential election heightened everyone’s interest in politics,” explained Sheldon, D-Potlatch. “People are paying close attention to what we are doing in Olympia – and they are especially concerned about the current spate of proposals for enormous tax increases. No matter how many times lawmakers from the state’s urban areas try to tell them higher taxes are good for them, they’re not buying.”
Some 490 voters participated in this year’s survey, online and by mail, an increase from 301 in 2016 and 277 in 2015. Sheldon’s district encompasses Mason County and parts of Thurston and Kitsap counties.
The results demonstrated strong opposition to proposals for specific tax increases. Although the governor and the leaders of the House Democratic Caucus favor a new income tax on capital gains, 79 percent of voters said they thought the narrowly based income tax would eventually be expanded into a general income tax on every citizen of the state. Some 68 percent said the Legislature ought to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would ban an income tax once and for all.
Nearly as unpopular is the governor’s proposal for a tax on carbon emissions, which would increase the price of gasoline and electricity across the state. Seventy-four percent said they are opposed.
On this year’s biggest issue, public-school financing, 77 percent of voters said they want the Legislature to avoid higher taxation as it addresses Supreme Court demands for ample and equitable funding, preferring reforms the state property-tax system. The survey also demonstrates broad public support for the Senate plan to equalize school property taxes statewide. A whopping 93 percent agreed that everyone should pay the same property tax rate. Only 7 percent thought property owners in wealthy school districts should continue paying a lower tax rate than everyone else.
“When people say they want a fair tax system, they mean a system in which everyone pays the same,” Sheldon said. “They’re not saying they want new taxes that will reach deeper into everyone’s pockets.”
On other issues, voters said they want the Legislature to fix a problem created by a state Supreme Court decision last October that has made it difficult, if not impossible, to drill new household-size wells. Seventy-nine percent said the Legislature should pass a bill restoring the rules that existed prior to the court’s Hirst decision, as the Senate has proposed in Senate Bill 5239.
Voters also said overwhelmingly that:
- The state should retain its 4-year balanced-budget law, which prohibits unsustainable spending (81 percent),
- The governor should not accept political contributions from the public-employee unions with whom he negotiates labor contracts (81 percent), and
- Heroin-injection sites are not a proper use of public resources (77 percent).
They also strongly endorsed the death penalty, with 58 percent saying they see it as a matter of justice, and 23 percent saying they oppose it “except in certain cases.” Only 18 percent flatly oppose the death penalty in all cases.
“Some of these results might seem obvious – they’re really a matter of common sense,” Sheldon said. “Most people would be astounded to know these are actually matters of debate at the statehouse. Attitudes might be different in certain urban areas, but there really does seem to be a statewide consensus. Voters want a government that spends their money wisely, understands there should be limits to its demands, and respects the will of the people.”
Full results are as follows: