Following the adjournment of the 63rd Washington State Legislature’s 60-day session last week, 32nd District Senator Maralyn Chase reported her take on the work completed in Olympia to a solemn gathering of constituents at the Mountlake Terrace Community Senior Center on Saturday.
Chase spoke primarily about state education spending and taxes at the two-hour town hall meeting.
Chase expressed disappointment with the outcome of the 60-day legislative session. “We had some opportunities to do some good things, which we did not do,” she stated.
While the legislature passed a supplemental spending plan that dedicates an additional $58 million to K-12 schools, Chase simply responded, “It’s not enough.”
Last year the Washington State Supreme Court ordered the state to fully fund public education by 2017-19, and to show how state government would do that by April 30, 2014. While nobody really knows how much spending would satisfy the court, some put the figure in the billions. Chase was disappointed greater steps to possibly satisfy court justices weren’t taken during this session.
“We are under a court order … and we didn’t do anything about it,” Chase said.
Chase did vote for the supplemental spending budget that passed the Senate 41-8, but she admitted that she cast an affirmative vote for it grudgingly. There were additions to the bill that she insisted be included, and when they were, she voted for the legislation. “You’ve got to compromise down there; it’s politics,” Chase explained.
For the senator and many of her supporters who attended the town hall meeting Saturday, the real answer to increasing education spending in the state would be to adopt tax reform that included creation of a state income tax and state capital gains tax. “We absolutely have to have tax reform,” Chase told the gathering. “We just don’t have enough money coming into the state.”
Chase has sponsored numerous pieces of legislation throughout her 14 years in Olympia (10 years as a state representative and her one four-year term as the 32nd District senator) pushing for a state income tax. In 2013 she sponsored, then reintroduced in 2014,SJR 8207, which would amend the Washington State Constitution to allow a state income tax.
State voters have rejected the idea of an income tax seven times, the last being in 2010 when Initiative 1098 was voted down 65.6 percent to 34.4 percent. But Chase isn’t deterred by that result, stating that the campaign for the initiative didn’t present its case well. “That’s one of the reasons why we lost – it wasn’t well-explained,” she said.
Chase hopes the idea will be brought before voters again, maybe within the next couple of years. She thinks voters can be persuaded to approve a state income tax if a groundswell of support can be grown from citizens and city, town and county councils.
“It needs to be a universal campaign,” she explained. “I hope they (city and council officials) get onboard because they are hurting for money as much as schools,” Chase stressed.
Chase said that the town hall meeting represented the final emphasis on legislative work this year. The senator is expected to announce her bid for re-election to the 32nd District Senate position next week.
— Story and photo by Doug Petrowski