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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Pacific NW

Inslee: Closing tax breaks still key to meeting school funding order

Gov. Jay Inslee is steering clear of suggesting what the state Supreme Court should do to force the Legislature to comply with orders to spend more on public schools.

Lawyers from the attorney general’s office were before the justices Wednesday arguing that the Legislature should not be held in contempt for ignoring an order to come up with a plan earlier this year for paying for improved schools.

On Thursday, Inslee talked about the school funding case during a news conference.

No one should be surprised the justices are frustrated by the lack of a plan, he said.

“The court made it pretty clear that the Legislature shouldn’t keep kicking the can down the road,” Inslee said. “If the court does find the Legislature in contempt, it should not take action that shuts down government.”

In 2012, the court ordered the Legislature to come up with a plan to meet its “paramount” constitutional duty by the 2017-18 school year, as part of the case commonly referred to as McCleary, the name of one set of parents who sued the state for failing to provide adequate money for public schools. Some estimates say meeting the court’s order could cost more than $4 billion.

Inslee said he believes the Legislature will have to find more money by closing some tax breaks that businesses receive, a course he’s advocated for the past two years without much success. There are many options for legislators to consider next year, but “you can’t generate $5 billion out of thin air.”

Inslee also said at his news conference that he will repeat his call next year for the Legislature to raise the state’s minimum wage. Economic advisers recently told him the state is seeing increases in jobs and consumer confidence to prerecession levels. But for workers in the lower fourth of the job market, wages aren’t keeping up with inflation, which means they are spending less, a problem for Washington’s consumer-based tax system.

Jim Camden

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

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