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Washington Senate Democrats Target Tax Exemptions To Fund Schools

Minority Democrats in the Washington Senate want to tax oil refineries, bottled water, prescription drug resellers and out-of-state shoppers. The proposal released Tuesday could generate $100 million per year for public schools.

Senate Democrats may be in the minority. But that isn’t stopping them from targeting what they call “unproductive” tax “loopholes.” They would earmark the revenue to reduce elementary school class size, pay for all-day kindergarten and give teachers a cost-of-living increase.

Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, acknowledged that in 2010, Washington voters repealed taxes on bottled water as well as candy and soda. But he thinks voters might reconsider now.

“Why are we incentivizing people to buy bottled water instead of using the funds from that tax loophole to fund education for the future of our children and our state?” he said.

The Washington Legislature is under a Supreme Court order to fully fund basic education by 2018. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee also recently proposed to close tax exemptions to fund schools. Legislative Republicans have said education funding should come from existing streams of revenue.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.