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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Governor Shifts Emphasis To Sell Tax Package For Schools

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network files

OLYMPIA, Wash. – On the campaign trail, Washington Governor Jay Inslee talked about financing education by growing the economy. Now the Democrat proposes to raise $1.2 billion for schools by extending some tax increases and ending some tax breaks.

In Spokane last June I moderated the first gubernatorial debate between Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna. And I put this question to both candidates: if elected, would you ask voters to support a new tax for schools to respond to the Washington Supreme Court’s ruling that the state is not adequately funding education.

For Inslee, taxes were last on his list.

“No, I am proposing a different avenue which is job creation, to get those 280,000 people back to work, so we can increase revenues to fund education," he said. "And embracing Lean management techniques to bring efficiency to state government, and embrace preventative health care so that we can reduce the rate of medical inflation and then close some of the corporate tax loopholes.”

In June, closing tax loopholes was fourth on Inslee’s list. But last week as he rolled out his budget proposal they were number one. Economic growth, LEAN management and bending the health care cost curve will take longer to bear fiscal fruit. And so the entirety of Inslee’s first down payment for schools would come from changes to the tax code.

“To govern, it is said, is to choose," the governor says. "And today I choose and I believe we should all choose education over tax breaks.”

Inslee proposes to close or narrow $500 million in tax exemptions. He would expand and make permanent an expiring tax on beer. He would also extend a surcharge on some professional services.

At his budget news conference, I asked the Governor if he risked losing the faith and trust of voters by de-emphasizing taxes during the campaign and now relying on them.

“I am today doing exactly, exactly what I said I was going to do if I was given this great responsibility of being governor.”

Inslee says on the campaign trail he pledged to put $1 billion more into schools without a general tax increase – and now, he says, that’s what he’s proposing to do.

On the Web:

Gov. Inslee's budget priorities - Office of the Governor
Inslee's education campaign platform - Jay Inslee for Washington 

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."