All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why don’t Democrats want to Fund Education First?

Republican legislators’ mantra last year during budget negotiations was Fund Education First, and it was a popular one. Not only does our state constitution say that education is the state’s paramount duty, it’s also voters’ number one priority. To them, it is obvious that state leaders should fully fund our paramount duty before other priorities in the budget.

Gov. Inslee announced his plan Tuesday to end seven tax preferences and raise $200 million in new tax revenue this year, to be put toward school operational costs, textbooks, and a cost-of-living raise for teachers. Public radio’s Austin Jenkins asked the governor directly at his press conference why Democrats don’t agree with Republicans’ preference for funding education first and funding other, lower priorities of government through tax increases if Democrats feel that is necessary.

Not surprisingly, Inslee didn’t want to answer that question. Instead, he gave an answer about his current supplemental budget proposal that ignored the premise of the question: If education is the paramount duty of the state, why not fund it first and make a tax fight about other spending?

You don’t have to go back in time very far to see Republicans step up for education while Democrats made their support contingent on getting new taxes approved. Just last year, the Majority Coalition Caucus proposed a budget that increased education funding by $1 billion without needing general tax increases. Budget proposals from the House Democrats and the governor also increased education funding, but only if big tax increases were approved.

Of course, we all know why the governor and his party don’t support Fund Education First, they just can’t say it out loud. As the party of bigger government, they want tax increases, and they think they’re more likely to pass a tax increase if it’s “for schools.” Legislators and the public are less likely to feel pressured to approve new taxes if they went to, say, more government regulations enforced by more government employees.

Unfortunately, Fund Education First doesn’t fit into their Grow Government First agenda at all.

– Rob McKenna

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