GOP property-tax plan will only widen the urban-rural divide

The GOP-backed education property tax could make the urban-rural divide worse, writes Jonathan Martin.

Tally up the winners and losers of the massive $4 billion property-tax increase just passed by the state Legislature, and the results pretty much line up like this:

Districts that elect Democrats will pay more — a lot more in some cases. Republican districts get tax cuts, or at least flat taxes.

And that math may have interesting consequences for the future balance of power in Washington’s Legislature.

The new education financing plan to meet the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling is very complex, and will do many great things for Washington schools. That’s worthy of a whole different column.

But who pays is important, and the politics are relatively simple. Republicans, who control the state Senate, locked up with impressive discipline around a long-debated plan to pay for it with property taxes. Democrats, who control the House, wanted new taxes tilted toward the rich, but bowed under deadline pressure.

Politically, it was a huge win for Republicans. But I think it may cost them.

Here are the biggest winners and losers: Eight mostly Eastern Washington school districts will see the biggest property tax cuts once the plan is fully phased in by 2021. Six of them elect Republican senators. The exception is in southwest Washington, which I’ll get to in a moment.

Meanwhile, all the biggest property-tax increases fall on districts that touch Lake Washington or Puget Sound in and around Seattle. All have Democratic senators.

Except one: the 45th Legislative District, representing Redmond and Woodinville. That seat is up for grabs in November because Sen. Andy Hill, a respected moderate Republican budget wonk, passed away.

That’s an important exception because the GOP must win the 45th to retain a one-vote majority in the Senate. If the Democrat, Manka Dhingra, wins, her party runs the show in Olympia: both…

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