Morning Fizz

You Partisan Hypocrites

By Morning Fizz October 3, 2012

Caffeinated News & Gossip. Your daily Morning Fizz

1. Democrats: When you cheer President Obama tonight for saying he wants the wealthier to pay their fair share, keep in mind that Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna is proposing the same thing.

Republicans: When you boo President Obama tonight for saying he wants the wealthier to pay their fair share, keep in mind that Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna is proposing the same thing.

A pox on both your houses, you partisan hypocrites.

Case in point: At last night's gubernatorial debate in Yakima, after McKenna accused Inslee of planning to raise taxes ("why else would Inslee and his allies want to make it easier to raise taxes?" McKenna asked about Democratic efforts to overturn Tim Eyman's two-thirds anti-tax force field), Inslee tried to turn the tables by saying McKenna had a property tax increase proposal for hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians on the table right now. (Inslee, for his part, said he was not proposing a tax increase of his own.)

Inslee was referring to a complicated McKenna proposal known as the property tax swap. The basic idea is this: Rather than making local school districts pay a portion of the K-12 bill with local property tax levies, the state would pick up the bill. This is, indeed, part of McKenna's education funding plan.

And it makes sense. Not only did the Washington State Supreme Court recently mandate that the state had to stop shirking its constitutional responsibility to fund schools by pushing the bill off on local districts, but the property tax swap would make the source more stable (drawing from a bigger pool of taxpayers lowers the risk of relying on volatile property taxes), and it would tap richer districts who are able to pay more; Bellevue property owners, for example, would end up subsidizing Yakima's schools (a basic principle of progressive taxation).

The scheme wouldn't raise new revenue—because it's simply a swap, the overall bill for K-12 would be the same—but people in wealthier school districts would certainly see their property taxes rise (which is the basis for Inslee's claim.)[pullquote]"Iwakuma is pitching well, and Seager went deep for a one-run lead. Not watching [the debate]. I am not running for Governor."—Rep. Ross Hunter[/pullquote]

Ultimately, given that Washington's blue urban and suburban districts pay more in taxes proportionally than they get back in services compared to rural red districts, this progressive formula, ironically, irks progressives. (It doesn't help matters that red counties traditionally vote against taxes and blue counties vote for them.)

Another irony: One of the main proponents of the property tax swap that Inslee criticized last night is a leading house Democrat: house ways and means chair, Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina). (Republican state Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-18, Ridgefield, has also proposed a property tax swap—and Inslee's camp says that's the one they're criticizing.)

Either way, and whoever wins the governor's race, the property tax swap is going to be a major legislative item in Olympia next year. And with Zarelli retiring, Hunter's house plan will surely take center stage.

Fizz asked Hunter for a comment last night about the fact that the Democratic candidate for governor was trash talking the idea.

Hunter wouldn't bite. "Iwakuma is pitching well, and Seager went deep for a one-run lead," he said referring to last night's Mariners action at Safeco. "Not watching [the debate]. I am not running for Governor."

To be fair, Hunter's plan (still being formulated) supposedly evens out the tax burden, so that richer districts may not have to pay more. We shall see.

Though if Inslee's the next governor, supposedly he'll put a stop to the property tax swap anyway. Supposedly.

2. The city council's budget committee is doing an online survey to get a sense of what residents' priorities are for the city budget, but some of the questions seem skewed toward certain outcomes.

Take, for example, the possible answers to question 1:  "Please select the priorities you believe your local government should focus on, in general. Select your highest three priorities."

We here at PubliCola may be bike-mad hippies, but even we aren't going to pick something small and specific like "More Bike Lanes" over a huge, basic city priority like "Public Safety/Crime Prevention."

Similarly, in response to question 17, which asks respondents to pick the three "least important" local government services, who's going to request less funding for, say, emergency medical services, road maintenance, or public schools? Given the way the questions are worded, we're betting "extras" like bike lanes and arts are going to end up at the bottom of the heap.

We have a call out to city council budget chair Tim Burgess, who distributed the survey in his newsletter, to find out what, if anything, the city plans to do with the survey results.

3. The governor's race and the initiatives (gay marriage, pot legalization, charter schools, and Eyman's latest anti-tax proposal) may be getting most of the ink, but another measure way down the Seattle ballot is getting a lot of this year's money.

The seawall measure, which would fund a new, $290 million seawall on Seattle's waterfront, has raised more than $140,000---an impressive amount for a campaign without any opposition. Big contributors include developer Martin Smith ($10,000), the state chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies ($10,000), engineering consultants Parsons Brinkerhoff ($10,000), the Seattle Aquarium ($10,850), and the Mariners ($5,000).
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