Education and roads key topics as state lawmakers visit area

April 2, 2015

By Tom Corrigan

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State legislators descended on their Eastside jurisdictions March 14, holding an open house in Bellevue.

At Somerset Elementary School, one main topic was education, with dozens of teachers outside, and later inside, carrying signs mostly declaring, “It’s time to fully fund education.”

The state Legislature still is working on meeting the demands of the state supreme court in the now famous McCleary case, said State Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island.

State Reps. Judy Clibborn and Tana Senn, both D-Mercer Island, joined Litzow for about a two-hour question-and-answer session with residents.

Basically, in the McCleary decision, the state Supreme Court ruled the state Legislature is not sufficiently funding basic education.

For K-12 education, Litzow said the state would spend $16.7 billion on basic education this year. With an adjustment for the McCleary decision, the total jumps an additional $1.3 billion. Litzow pointed out a couple of possible new revenue sources, but mentioned one entirely new money stream: $200 million to $400 million in potential taxes from legalized marijuana sales.

On another front, the audience seemed split when Clibborn talked about a stalemate over a bill to remove certain personal exemptions when it comes to vaccinating children.

The issue came up because of a recent outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough, at three Issaquah School District buildings.

Eventually, one big topic of conversation became a proposed 12-cent gas tax increase.

Regarding the proposed gas tax, Clibborn said the current tax hadn’t been raised in 13 years. Senn talked about a capital gains tax that would exempt homes and retirement funds and also only apply above a certain income threshold. She said she felt the capital gains tax was less regressive than a new gas or sales tax.

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