It has recently come to our attention that a former John Birch Society activist is peddling an initiative that will hurt educational opportunities for kids. We?re not sure what is more disturbing: that the initiative proponent is trying to pass off radical ideas as mainstream or the underlying anti-education message of the initiative.
Initiative 920 would eliminate the revenue generated by the estate tax that all goes to the Education Legacy Trust. Washington has had an estate tax since 1901. It was linked to the federal estate tax, which is being phased out. In 2005 the state legislature reinstated our estate tax as a standalone tax and dedicated the proceeds to the Education Legacy Trust. The trust funds:
? Initiative 728, which the voters overwhelmingly approved to help keep class sizes in our schools manageable;
? 7,900 higher education enrollments;
? Financial aid for students from working families (increasing the State Need Grant to 65 percent of the state median income from 55 percent); and
? Extra help for struggling students ? increased support for the Learning Assistance Program.
The main proponent of the initiative is Dennis Falk, a former Seattle police officer and proponent of a failed 1978 anti-gay initiative. With the assistance of a handful of wealthy individuals, Mr. Falk is promoting this initiative to repeal the estate tax that funds public education.
The reality is the revenue generated comes from only about 250 of the very wealthiest estates per year. The reinstated estate tax has a significantly reduced impact on estates: after 2006, the first $2 million is completely exempt, and family farms are completely exempt if at least 50 percent of the property?s value is actually being used for farming. Last year, 44,642 people died in our state. Of their heirs, 99.5 percent would have been exempt from this tax.
Every day, we bring Jewish values to bear on our public policy work. The first and foremost value is tikkun olam. Passage of this initiative would leave funding for education in disrepair. Another value is the overwhelming respect for education. This is a value shared in the Washington state constitution, recognizing education as the paramount duty of the state. Finally, tzedakah obliges all Jews to do their part in helping the community. What could be a better mitzvah than to gratefully help support education?
State Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo)
Remy Trupin, Executive Director, Washington State Budget & Policy Center