For the last five years, Washington State Democrats had one clear goal in mind: Use the McCleary education funding case as an excuse to pass new types of taxes. A state income tax, a capital gains income tax, a carbon tax – it hardly mattered. Democrats just didn’t want to “let a crisis go to waste.”
So by that standard, how did they do? They failed miserably – and that’s great news for the rest of us. Here’s a look at that hoped-for new taxes that will leave state Democrats humming “What Might Have Been.”
Capital gains income tax
Yes, just phrasing it that way ticks off a progressive. “It’s not an income tax!” they protest. But it would tax income made from capital gains, so…it’s a capital gains income tax.
House Democrats, who hold a mere 50-48 majority in that chamber, pushed for a capital gains income tax this year. By “pushed,” we mean they brought it up as an idea but never did anything about it, including vote for it.
They wanted Senate Republicans, who oppose a capital gains income tax, to cave and agree to it before they’d vote for their own proposal. Not surprisingly, this idea went nowhere.
Gov. Jay Inslee threw his weight, as he has throughout his tenure, behind a carbon tax. Inslee has made it clear that a carbon tax is his #1 priority as governor.
What did legislative Democrats do with Inslee’s highest priority? They never brought it up for a vote.
Washington State Democrats have long dreamed of enacting a state income tax. In fact, it’s an official plank in the party platform and has been for years.
Inslee has said he doesn’t support a state income tax. He always manages to answer the question, however, in a way that implies he merely accepts this as a political reality rather than actually opposing it.
A state income tax faces legal and constitutional hurdles, in addition to the political ones (i.e. it’s unpopular with voters). Efforts such as Olympia’s and Seattle’s local income tax proposals are meant to “blow up” court precedent and make way for state Democrats’ fondest wish.
So what did legislative Democrats do about it this year? They never voted on it.
Hey, we’re almost seeing a pattern here.
Were Democrats “rolled”?
Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat wrote that legislative Democrats got “rolled” by Senate Republicans. He’s certainly right that legislative Republicans got more of what they wanted. “There is apparently no flimsier reed than a Democrat playing the game of chicken with a Republican,” he said.
On the big question of 2017 – how to pay for McCleary – Republicans won. For the taxpaying public, legislative Democrats’ almost total lack of success is great news. “Never waste a crisis” indeed.