Saturday, April 16, 2016
|Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-32|
Democratic State Sen. Maralyn Chase says that she is disappointed with the performance of the 2016 legislature
She said last week that at the top of her disappointments list is the lack of money for public education, money that would help the state meet the requirements of the McCleary decision, which ordered the state to provide full financial support for the state's public schools.
She added that she expects the Supreme Court to take action.
“Perhaps they will declare all tax exemptions unconstitutional and use that source of revenue to fund public education,” she said. “The court cannot raise taxes or change the tax system, but they can declare legislation unconstitutional.”
Second on her list of disappointments is the passing of the bill to save Washington’s public charter schools. The Charter School Bill, she said, ignores the needs of over a million school children in favor of 800 students; she called that a demonstration of the power of the “Wall Street Party” in controlling the state constitution and legislature.
She notes that the bill authorized up to 40 charter schools, beginning with the eight existing charters for $10 million and adding another eight charters each year for five years.
“That looks like authorizing $50 million, more or less, by the end of the five-year period,” she said. “In order to implement this bill, the Wall Street Party only had to appropriate $10 million this year, anticipating $20 million next year, $30 million the next, etc. Where will that money come from?
"Hopefully the Supreme Court will declare this charter bill unconstitutional in a very short time. Or perhaps the representatives of the Wall Street Party will simply decide to change the statutes and use the money accruing from fines levied by the Supreme Court to fund their charter schools.
“The fine is $100,000 per day or one million for every 10 days or $3 million per month. The fines started on Aug. 13, 2015. By April 13, 2016, it will be 7 months.”
On Wednesday, she noted, the total fine reached $21 million. She added that the fiscal note for the charter schools bill allowed for up to $21 million from the lottery funds for the charters.
“I wonder where they will find the rest of the money, she added.
Another disappointment, she said, is “the continual sweep of the Public Works Trust Fund,” which, she said, ignores the deteriorating condition of the state’s infrastructure.
“Thirty-four water systems in our state need fixing, as do local roads and bridges, sewers and surface water systems,” she said. “Local governments are responsible for maintaining these systems. The Public Works Assistance Account was established due to the recognition that local governments were not able to fund critical projects, including system upgrades.
"All across the state we are dealing with aging infrastructure with very high replacement costs. It is easy to predict that lack of funding is likely to result in system failures all across our state.
“When the Public Works Assistance Account was established in 1985, it was funded by small increases in some utility and real estate taxes. The legislature has now directed these taxes to be deposited in the Education Legacy Account rather than the Public Works Assistance Account.
“This session has been an ongoing process of robbing Peter to pay Paul,” she said. “But the Wall Street Party doesn’t want to tell the citizens just how they are moving money around, shifting from one fund to another, seemingly appearing able to fund important government functions, all to avoid taxing the wealthy.”
In addition, she added that the court also could declare any legislation using tax revenue to capitalize private companies unconstitutional – such as privately held research companies or privately held green energy companies.
“The Constitution is clear in prohibiting the use of the public’s tax dollars to make a profit -- but the Wall Street Party ignores it.
“Of course, we are still No. 1 with the tax system most unfair in the entire United States. Poor working families pay about 25 percent of their personal income in taxes while the Wall Street Party members only pay about 2 percent.”
She said that the tax system is another example of income inequality.
“Forty-six percent of the children in our state are eligible for free or reduced price lunches,” she added. “You have to be poor to qualify. And we are close to 38,000 homeless school children, most of whom have a sibling and one or two parents. Homeless families in this state represent about 100,000 homeless individuals.”
Chase represents the 32nd Legislative District, including Shoreline and part of northwest Seattle, Woodway and nearby unincorporated areas, parts of Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace, and all of Lynnwood. She is ranking Democratic minority member of the Senate committee on trade and economic development, and a member of the Rules Committee and the committee on natural resources and parks.
Evan Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.