Thursday Jolt: Is Inslee's Cynical Ad Actually Working?

By Afternoon Jolt October 11, 2012

Afternoon Jolt: The day's winners and losers

Today's winner: Jay Inslee.

We've been pretty appalled at a new Jay Inslee talking point—a cynical play for votes that accuses his Republican opponent Rob McKenna of planning to raise taxes.

McKenna's proposal to help fund public schools is revenue neutral, but would redistribute tax burdens, making wealthier communities pay more. Meanwhile, in the plan Inslee's trashing, 53 percent of taxpayers would see their property taxes decrease.

McKenna's proposal is known as a property tax swap because the state would take over local district school funding levies. Democratic house ways and means chair Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48) is one of its main proponents. The plan is a response to the Washington State Supreme Court which ordered the state to stop shirking its constitutional obligation to fund K-12 eduction. Part of that means the state has to stop relying on local levies for money.

McKenna released a detailed spreadsheet to back up his funding plan that specifically included levy swap dollars.

Inslee's attacks seem to be working, though. Asked about Inslee's ads on John Carlson's conservative radio talk show yesterday, McKenna—while certainly bashing Inslee ("the height of arrogance and cynicism") and going on to explain the context (it's a plan dictated by the court and backed by Democrats), ends up backtracking on his commitment to the plan.

"I’ve put it [the property tax swap] in my education plan as a placeholder, mainly just to point out we’ve got a problem we’ve got to address here. As all of us who have looked at this problem recognize, we have a lot more talking to do before we decide what’s going to happen."

That is much different than what McKenna said in late July when, in fact, the education funding proposal he released included "Enact levy swap for public schools" under the heading "5 Ways to Fund Education." Additionally, McKenna released a detailed spreadsheet to back up his funding plan that specifically included levy swap dollars—for example, $1.6 billion in the 2012-15 biennium and $1.7 billion in the 2015-2017 biennium.

McKenna has not returned a call for comment. 

Fizz noted yesterday that Inslee's team had internal polling that pushed them to go negative, and presumably on the tax issue.

Their cynicism appears to be paying off.

Today's loser: State auditor candidate Troy Kelley.

Far be it from Jolt to question a politician's all-American right to open a bank account in an offshore tax haven, but it seems like a candidate for state auditor, the official directly responsible for keeping state agencies accountable and fiscally responsible, should perhaps show a bit more, um, fiscal transparency. 

Kelley---who has also been sued for theft, misappropriating funds, tax evasion, and other charges---acknowledged in a deposition in 2010 that he wired millions of dollars from bank account to bank account, with the money ending up in an account that was eventually linked to a bank in Belize, an offshore tax haven.

KPLU reports that at the time Kelley pulled the $3.8 million out of three of his business accounts, he was being sued for allegedly misappropriating $1.2 million in customer fees by one of his clients. That client, Old Republic Escrow, was accusing Kelley of hiding his assets in order to avoid his creditors, which is illegal. 

In the end, Kelley and Old Republic settled the suit. 

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