Let’s fully fund our public schools and give small businesses real tax relief

by Rep. Mike Chapman

We face a choice here in Washington state: work together to get things done in a spirit of cooperation and creativity—or embrace the poisonous gridlock of Washington, D.C. where politics is seen as a war.

This choice matters more than ever today, because our state is on a court-ordered deadline to unite behind a budget that fully funds our public schools.

There are 1.1 million students in our public schools who are counting on us to get this done. It’s incredibly important in every corner of the state, especially in the 24th District, where our kids don’t get the same great education as kids in wealthier districts.

That’s why the state Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers have to fix how we fund schools. Every child deserves a great education in our public schools.

A great education is the only way our sons and daughters will have a chance to compete for the best jobs in the world. Education is also the engine of our state’s prosperity. Our businesses, big and small, need highly educated workers.

Yet right now, we’re in gridlock, with the Senate Republicans refusing to even negotiate a budget during the regular session.

This isn’t a partisan problem. There are good people in both parties, and we worked hand-in-hand with Republicans in the House and Senate to negotiate and pass a transportation budget.

The D.C.-style way of doing things would have been to only have the parties in charge of each chamber—House Democrats and Senate Republicans—sit down and work out a transportation budget.

Yet we’ve found that sort of partisanship isn’t healthy or smart. You want to give everyone a seat at the table, and that’s what we did with transportation and with the state construction budget, which my seatmate, Rep. Steve Tharinger, chairs in the House.

When you bring everyone to the table, and make them partners instead of enemies, you get a better budget from having those different points of view. And more importantly, you make it easier to get other things done, because you’ve built up trust and mutual respect.

When you include everyone in a spirit of cooperation, and see them as partners instead of enemies, you can bring forth bold new ideas.

Here are three big things we proposed in the House that are the product of thinking differently and working with both Republicans and Democrats:

· Free tuition in timber and farm country—Working with a freshman Republican in the House, I proposed legislation to give folks one year of free tuition at local community and technical colleges in high-demand fields. This is aimed at small counties with high unemployment or low wages, and it would make a huge difference here along the coast and in farm country. The cost is also extremely low: $750,000.

· Building schools—Rep. Tharinger’s proposed capital budget would invest a record $1 billion into building public schools and $800 million toward building colleges and universities. This only happened because he included Republicans and Democrats from the start.

· A real tax break for small businesses—Instead of simply raising taxes to pay for public schools, here in the House we tried to think big and proposed a number of tax reforms to make the system more fair. One big piece of that proposal is exempting small businesses ($250,000 and less) from paying any state Business and Occupation tax.

I believe we could find agreement with Senate Republicans on ideas like this, and that they could work with us on creative ideas from their chamber to move our state forward.

We simply have to agree to bring everyone to the table, to listen to each other and negotiate.

Once we start doing that, I’m confident we’ll craft a state budget that fully funds public schools and a construction budget that builds the elementary and high schools our kids need.

Let’s reject the failed politics of gridlock and partisanship. It hasn’t worked in Washington, D.C. and it won’t work here.

By working together, as partners, we can make our tax system more fair, fully fund public schools and give people a better life in every corner of the great state of Washington.

Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) worked as a law enforcement officer and county commissioner before being elected to the House of Representatives.

Representative Mike Chapman

24th Legislative District

[email protected]

House of Representatives

PO Box 40600

Olympia, WA 98504-0600