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Prioritize spending, don’t hike taxes

DAILY SUN NEWS EDITORIAL

The 2017 Legislative session begins Monday, and with it comes the continued battle over K-12 education funding.

Democrats want billions of tax dollars — $2.7 billion over the next biennium, including millions in new revenue, if Gov. Jay Inslee has his way — to improve student academic success rates and to equalize the disparity between rich and poor communities’ schools. Rather than raise taxes, Republicans say lawmakers need to prioritize spending.

The matter will need to be resolved this year if the Legislature is to avoid further McCleary case penalties from the state Supreme Court over education funding. While we believe the high court has overstepped its authority and is legislating from the bench in its McCleary decision, we also believe education spending should take a higher priority than many other state government expenditures.

Inslee says he’d fund the increase in education funding through higher business taxes, and new taxes and fees on carbon emissions and capital gains. But raising taxes on businesses already struggling with the massive minimum wage increase Jan. 1, ever-increasing Obamacare costs and expensive new regulations and requirements isn’t the answer.

We would rather see the Legislature take a stand on wasteful spending. We don’t want lawmakers to bring home the bacon, we want them to cut the fat.

For example, the state Department of Transportation hands dollars out hand-over-fist to build unnecessary roundabouts, erect guardrails along primitive mountain roads and put metal meshes over rock faces adjacent to many rural highways. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife continue to seek funds — often through sub-grants to the Recreation and Conservation Office, environmental activist groups and others receiving state moneys — to buy productive land like farms and orchards and take it off the tax rolls. While in production, those lands generate property, sales and other taxes. Then there’s the bureaucratic behemoth Department of Social and Human Services that should be cut back. And the list goes on.

The point is simply this — you and I have to live within our budgetary means. We think our state should do the same, without passing additional burdens onto cash-strapped residents and struggling businesses.

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