Dear friends and neighbors,

As many of you know, The Washington State Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the state has unconstitutionally left it to local school districts, through local levies, to cover much of the cost of a basic education.

Even though some school districts had sufficient funding when local levies were accounted for, the court said those levies do not qualify as “reliable sources” of funding under the state constitution. As a result, Democrats and Republicans came together last year to support a compromise bill to fund education at the state level. It essentially increased the state property tax rates and reduced local levy rates.

However, the court ruled in November that the changes come a year too late. Instead, the court said, they need to be made by Sept. 1, meaning that the Legislature would need to dedicate another $1 billion to education funding this year.

If the Legislature were to provide local districts with an additional $1 billion, it would amount to a double dipping of taxpayer money. I don’t think it’s right for taxpayers to get hit with high local levies and a new statewide property tax increase and have schools get an additional $1 billion on top of those already high taxes. If the state can muster up $1 billion in this budget, it should be going to tax relief.

In order to comply with the court’s latest ruling, I introduced Senate Bill 6525. It would give districts that meet certain budget, transparency and accounting requirements state funding for higher salaries starting this fall. In exchange, those districts would be required to reduce local levies to offset the amount received. Taxpayers would see some relief on their 2018 property tax bills and school districts’ annual budgets would remain consistent, rather than spiking tax rates in the 2018-19 school year before sharply declining.

A bipartisan mix of 26 senators – more than enough to pass the bill if it went for a vote – have signed on as co-sponsors.

Best regards,