McKenna, Inslee spar over tax plan for schools

Candidates for governor meet in campaign's final debate

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SEATTLE — Washington’s gubernatorial candidates agreed Tuesday during their final debate that increasing taxes isn’t something they would do as governor. They agreed that more money needs to go to public schools and universities but sparred over a proposed tax plan that would equalize the funding public schools in different districts get from Washington homeowners.

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 noneducation 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.

“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 is supported 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.