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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 Legislature On Collision Course Over Tax Breaks

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The final two weeks of the Washington legislature may come down to a battle over tax breaks.

Democrats want to eliminate a series of tax exemptions to fund teacher cost-of-living raises and other education priorities. Republicans propose just the opposite: they want to renew several tax incentives with the goal of creating or preserving jobs.

The latest proposal is from House Democrats and mirrors one we saw earlier this week from Senate Democrats. They would tax oil refineries, prescription drug resellers, bottled water and out-of-state shoppers.

House Finance Committee Chair Reuven Carlyle says the push to eliminate tax breaks is a direct response to the McCleary case. That Washington Supreme Court ruling says the state isn’t adequately funding education or teacher salaries.

“We live in a post-McCleary era," says Carlyle. "The era of old fashioned stereotypes and clichés of yesterday about more and more and more tax preferences vs getting smarter and rigorous and investing in early learning, those days are over.”

Democrats would put most of the money from closing tax breaks into funding voter-approved cost-of-living pay increases for teachers.

Republicans counter that Washington’s economic recovery is fragile. They believe now is the time to give businesses tax certainty.

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."