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State lawmakers’ failure to meet deadline costs taxpayers more than $1.5 million since 2012

SEATTLE — State lawmakers have failed once again to meet their regular legislative deadline, forcing a special session.

In fact, since 2012 it has cost more than $1.5 million for these special sessions.

But the stakes are higher than ever because the Washington Supreme Court gave the Legislature until this year to comply with the court’s Mcleary decision.

The court ruled the state was failing to fully fund public education and that local school districts were left to fend for themselves, relying on local levies to pay for education.

Right now Democrats and Republicans agree on one big thing they both want to spend a lot more on -- K-12.

The sticking point, where does the money come from?

“We can all wish for magic money, (but) we have real money,” said Republican state Sen. Mark Miloscia.

Republicans believe a property tax increase is the best way to raise money for education. They say other tax increases are not necessary pointing to a growing economy projected to bring in a $2.6 billion surplus to the state in the next two years. But Democrats say the Republicans' current state budget outside of education is ‘draconian.’

“They have cuts on serious social safety nets, I mean programs that people rely on just to survive,” said Democratic Rep. Pat Sullivan.

The partisan fighting has led to yet another special session.

“The special session is not that special anymore,” Washington Policy Center's Paul Guppy said.

Guppy added the issue among lawmakers is not so much about money as philosophy.

“It’s a philosophical difference as to whether the state is taking in enough revenue,” Guppy said.

Democrats are proposing several taxes, including capital gains tax on high earners.
They are also seeking to reform the B & O tax. Democrats say it will cut taxes for small businesses and raise them on big corporations.

Q13 News asked Guppy if the state is in this position because there is no income tax.

“Our research shows income tax starts out on high earners and gradually creeps down to include middle-income people,” Guppy said.

Washington is one of nine states that don't have an income tax. It’s been on the ballot nine times and, most recently, was voted down in 2010.

Beyond the unpopularity of an income tax, Guppy said the absence of an income tax is one reason Washington’s economy is thriving.

“Our study shows everybody benefits because it creates a better investment and business environment for the entire state, particularly for a state like Washington that depends on international trade, high-tech investment,” Guppy said.

As the Legislature's budget battle rages on, about a million children are caught in the middle.

“What’s unhealthy is not getting a decision; this keeps stretching on year after year,” Guppy said.

The Washington Policy Center said the lawmakers will only succeed if they meet somewhere in the middle.

“Getting rid of the extreme decisions and coming to a compromise and enacting a budget,” Guppy said.