Inslee, McKenna spar over tax plan for schools in final debate

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by Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on October 16, 2012 at 8:50 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 16 at 11:21 PM

SEATTLE -- Washington’s gubernatorial candidates agreed Tuesday that increasing taxes isn’t something they would do as governor, and said during their last debate that more money needs to go to public schools and universities but sparred over a proposed tax plan to equalize the way Washington homeowners pay for public schools.

[Read the KING 5 live blog of the gubernatorial debate]

Both candidates expect the state to have growing revenues in the coming years. In order to free up extra cash for education, Republican Rob McKenna would like to cap non-education spending growth at 6 percent per biennium.

“I’m not willing to consider tax increases,” McKenna said. “Voters don’t want to see higher taxes.”

Democrat Jay Inslee believes his economic plan can trigger strong job growth to increase revenues.

Inslee called McKenna’s support of the so-called levy swap a tax “gimmick” that would raise taxes on people in many school districts.

[Read: The Seattle Times: Inslee, McKenna duel in final televised debate]

“It may help Olympia politicians on paper, it does not help students in school,” the former congressman said.

McKenna, the state’s attorney general, said that was not true and pointed out that the proposal was being advanced by Democrats in the Legislature.

The plan would replace some local property taxes with a statewide education property tax and essentially take tax money from property-rich taxpayers and distribute it to areas with schools in greater need.

Instead of the school districts with the highest property values being able to collect the most school levy dollars, taxpayers across the state would be contributing more to the overall state education system, and that money would be redistributed according to student population and needs, not by property values.

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