Parties trade shots on state budget messages

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Republicans and Democrats in Olympia are both claiming falsehoods have worked their way into political campaigns targeting each side's state budget stances in the Washington Legislature.

The Senate Republicans are unhappy with a Washington Education Association radio advertisement that claims the GOP wants to increase the number of students per teacher in a classroom. The Democrats are miffed at a robocall campaign, orchestrated by the state Republican Party and several business lobbying groups, that claims Gov. Jay Inslee wants to create a "capital gains income tax."

The WEA radio advertisement asserts that the Senate Republicans -- who control that chamber -- want to make classrooms more crowded and want to shortchange teachers, while giving themselves 11 percent pay raises.

One problem with that ad is that, while the Democrats have been somewhat more aggressive on reducing classroom sizes and on increasing teacher pay, the Republicans have not made any attempt to make classrooms more crowded. And the GOP has called for some teacher pay hikes, but those have not been as generous to teachers as the Democrats’ approach. Possible legislative raises, which would be universal to both parties in both chambers, may be discussed at a May 13 meeting of the Washington Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials.

Meanwhile, the GOP and business lobbyists' robocalls have told people answering their phones that Inslee wants to install a "capital gains income tax." Technically, no such tax exists or has been proposed. Inslee, the House Democrats and Senate Democrats have unveiled three capital gains tax proposals. Depending on the individual proposal, these plans would affect only the state wealthiest 32,000 people or its wealthiest 7,000 people. Several exemptions are built into each proposal.

Technically, a capital gains tax is an excise tax, similar to a real estate excise tax, according to the staff of the Washington Senate Ways & Means Committee. The term "income tax" is a political bogeyman to Washington's voters, with very few politicians even willing to talk about one. This legislative session, business lobbyists have been painting a capital gains tax as a type of income tax, saying lawsuits might be filed because an income tax may be unconstitutional.

The robocalls included a message for the call recipients to “tell Gov. Inslee to buck up." The robocalls told the recipients to press "1"on their phones to be connected to Inslee's office. The governor's office received about 4,000 such transferred calls, said Inslee spokesman David Postman. Some of the call recipients -- who pressed "1" to be transferred -- also misheard the robocall, thinking the "b" in "buck up" was really an "f," Postman said.

On Tuesday, Inslee said he has no problems with capital gains tax opponents making robocalls, as long as a capital gains tax proposal is not identified as an income tax proposal. "This is the democratic process,” Inslee said. “People should have the right to express their opinions."


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8