Opinion

Through tax ups and downs, Democrats put people first

Washington state Rep. Laurie Jinkins is a Tacoma Democrat first elected in 2010.
Washington state Rep. Laurie Jinkins is a Tacoma Democrat first elected in 2010. Photo courtesy Washington Legislature

Democrats decided before the 2018 session that our focus was putting people first. That’s why reducing property taxes was a high priority.

Going into the 2017 session, it was clear tax increases were necessary to meet the Supreme Court mandate to fully fund public schools – something both parties agreed on.

The Republican-led Senate insisted on increasing the property tax, one of our state’s most hated and regressive taxes. Democrats proposed more progressive options to give our kids the education they deserve, including an idea I’ve advocated since first coming to the Legislature – a capital gains excise tax.

While the latest version of this tax would have only affected less than one-half of one percent of taxpayers in Washington (about 5,000 taxpayers), Republicans rejected the discussion of tax reform.

Instead they opted to enact the largest property tax increase in state history.

Working families and those on fixed incomes are hit hard by the Republican property tax increase. But with Democrats back in control of both legislative chambers this year, we lowered property taxes.

And we did it responsibly, leaving a healthy reserve in the rainy day fund as a hedge against a possible recession and emergencies like wildfires.

Yet most Republicans voted no and criticized those cuts as “not enough,” even though they were the very folks who insisted on hiking property taxes in the first place.

I’m not sorry Democrats cut your property taxes. I’m hopeful this year’s action is a down payment on a longer-term solution to lower property taxes even further.

I’m also proud of other Democratic priorities that passed this year. This includes legislation ensuring no child goes hungry at school, no worker is paid less solely because of gender and no person loses coverage for preventive care, regardless of what happens to the Affordable Care Act in the other Washington.

Many of these issues had wide bipartisan support, illustrating that leadership matters.

And while some states make it harder for people to exercise their right to vote, ours is making it easier for those eligible to do so, while maintaining the integrity and security of our elections.

Democrats championed same-day voting registration, automatic voter registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds.

We passed the Washington Voting Rights Act – long stalled while Republicans led the Senate – ensuring all communities in our state have fair representation in local government.

The Democrats’ budget expands access to college financial aid for low- and middle-income students. It invests in behavioral health to help people in crisis get the help they need.

It strengthens the safety net for struggling families, seniors, veterans and people with developmental disabilities.

It completes the final step of K-12 education funding, speeding up teacher compensation reforms that should finally put an end to the fines imposed by the state Supreme Court.

These were all Democratic priorities, and we accomplished them in 60 days – no special session necessary.

Leadership matters. Democrats are willing to work with Republicans on good public policy that benefits everyone, but we aren’t taking the blame for their obstructionism and dogged pursuit of property tax increases.

When your 2019 property tax bill is cut, it’s because Democrats put people first in 2018 and we’ll continue to do so. With or without the Republicans.

Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, represents the 27th Legislative District. Reach her by email at Laurie.Jinkins@leg.wa.gov

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