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Educaton Tax Increase Fails in Washington State

Washington voters failed to pass a 15% increase in the state sales tax to fund education programs.
<a href=" http://liberationlearning.org">Liberation Learning</a>

Washington voters failed to pass a 15% increase in the state sales tax to fund education programs.

Watching the early returns last night at the I-884 party made for not much of a party. Between national news updates of dashed hopes of an easy Kerry victory, I-884 fans faced total defeat. Early in the evening I-884 was down. Way down - by as much as 25 points. Losing by 25 points hurts. Later, things looked like a better kind of defeat, with an at least competitive loss by only 15 or 20 points. But still, Washington voters clearly said "no" to the sales tax for education trust fund initiative

What can be made of this? Voters have asked the state to pay teachers more, and to reduce class sizes - but without a clear price tag or payment plan and without strong enough advocates in the legislature to back the voters up. While Washington votes for "education governors," we also vote to eliminate taxes when given the chance. Washington voters are like politicians of, by, for and to ourselves. We're willing to say what it takes to keep ourselves happy. We can have everything without paying a cent!

There seems to a foggy mandate when it comes to funding schools, especially on a state-wide basis. But before we come to the conclusion that Washington voters have said the final word on funding our schools, let's keep the following in mind about I-884:

I-884 was a 15% sales tax increase - that's a lot to ask - all at once during low economic times

Washington voters rejected almost all of the statewide initiatives - perhaps voters were saying something more than just rejecting large tax increases to support schools

Even though I-884 lost, there are clearly lots of Washington voters willing to support even a 15% sales tax increase. We can build on this, perhaps with a smaller or different form of tax increase

I-884 was rejected by leading Democrats and labor because it relied on a 15% increase in sales tax - a major increase on a regressive tax

Finally, I-884 marks a positive change in how progressives in Washington are getting organized. I-884 was bold and proactive. It offered a real solution, calling voters to put up or shut up. Perhaps that is what's needed to turn foggy mandates into clear mandates. I-884 helped clear up the fog, and now we can figure out what Washington voters will pay to get the schools that we expect.

<a href=" http://liberationlearning.org">Liberation Learning</a>

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