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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 Tax Hearing Brings Out Competing Tales Of Hardship

Washington House Democrats are getting praise and scorn for their proposed $1.3 billion tax package for schools. At a public hearing Friday lawmakers heard tales of hardship from people for and against the tax measure.

First there were the PTA parents. They urged lawmakers to pass the omnibus tax bill to provide more cash for schools. Jennifer Harjehausen has kids in Kent schools, one of the most diverse districts in Washington. “We gave Sharpies to my kids’ teacher for Christmas," she said. "I mean come on. The PTA buys disinfectant for the computer lab. We have to provide our own trash can liners when we hold an event. That is crazy.”

But then lawmakers heard from insurance agents like Jeff Kyle. He opposes the Democrats’ plan to take away the preferential tax rate for his industry. Kyle said he recently chose to give up his house rather than lay off his one employee. “And now with this proposal I have nothing left to give. If this is this passed I have to let my employee go and I’m not the only person that’s being put in a position like this.”

Washington House Democrats propose to close or narrow a dozen tax preferences and extend some expiring taxes. The mostly Republican majority in the Washington Senate says taxes are not necessary. The Washington Supreme Court has ruled the legislature has to come up with more money for schools.

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."