SEATTLE (AP)– Voters Tuesday rejected a penny-on-the-dollar sales-tax increase to raise money for education, turning down a well-financed appeal for greater investment in the state’s young people.
With 30 percent of precincts reporting, Initiative 884 was opposed by 798,945 voters and supported by 454,140 – a margin of 64 percent to 36 percent.
“With the current high sales tax that we have, it was a tough leap for voters to make,” said Charles Hasse, president of the Washington Education Association, the statewide teachers union that was a strong supporter of Initiative 884.
“I don’t think that translates to a lack of support for public schools,” Hasse said, adding, “I think the coalition that worked on this is ready to try again to provide for students in Washington. People will continue to work on this.”
The League of Education Voters, a coalition of teachers, parents, business leaders and others that drove the campaign, said the sales-tax boost would generate more than $1 billion annually to transform education from preschool through college.
“I’m not ready for concession remarks. I’ll concede we’re in a hole but not more than that,” said league spokeswoman Lisa Mcfarlane.
Opponents – outspent 60-to-one – were wary of the tax bite and dubious about the benefits, fearing the initiative would simply pump more money into faltering programs.
“We’re just elated that our hard work paid off,” said spokeswoman Jamie Daniels for the League of Freedom Voters.
The initiative called for a one-penny-per-dollar increase in the state’s 6.5 percent sales tax, a 15.4 percent increase in a tax already viewed as burdensome for the poor.