State Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, joins The Overcast to talk about big property tax increases about to hit Seattle and areas including Bellevue and Mercer Island. That's courtesy of a plan to fund public schools, but Carlyle argues Republicans unfairly insisted on a tax that targets Democratic districts and the middle class.

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The bill to fully fund public schools is coming due, and some taxpayers in King County are in for a shock.

Property tax bills due to be mailed out in February will rise by an average of 17 percent, according to King County Assessor John Wilson. That means the owner of a home of median assessed value in the county will see their tax bill rise by $700.

What’s behind the increase? The Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee, who signed off on a plan to fully fund public schools by boosting taxes in wealthier areas such as Seattle, Bellevue and Mercer Island, and exporting those tax dollars to poorer districts.

On Episode 67 of The Overcast, the Seattle Times weekly politics podcast, hosts Jim Brunner and Dan Beekman quiz state Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, one of the Legislature’s experts on tax policy – who has been deeply critical of the tax plan causing the increases. The episode was recorded at the Seattle studios of public radio 88.5 FM KNKX as part of an ongoing partnership.

Carlyle, who voted against the tax plan, argues it was jammed through by Republicans last year under the threat of a state government shutdown. He says the plan was politically targeted to place the burden of tax increases needed to comply with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling on school funding on Democratic districts, while  lowering taxes over time in more rural, Republican districts.

“It was intentional and it was purposeful,” Carlyle says. He’s been hearing from constituents worried about he increase, including senior citizens on fixed incomes.

(Bonus podcast educational moment: Carlyle joined us by phone from the Capitol in Olympia – and actually had to step away a couple times during the recording to step out on the Senate floor to vote on amendments to a bill related to abortion rights. In other words: representative democracy in action!)

Brunner and Beekman challenge Carlyle to explain how Democrats can complain about getting rolled on the property tax plan, even though they controlled the House and Governor’s office last year, and the House, Senate and governor’s office this year.

Carlyle admits Democrats have “culpability” but argues Republicans were obstinate and willing to go right up to the line of a government shutdown to get their way on the tax plan.

So are there any prospects of easing the tax hikes? Carlyle says that’s not likely in a short, 60-day Legislative session, but gives his analysis of Democratic proposals to impose more progressive taxes on carbon emissions or capital gains.

In a non-tax kicker, Carlyle is challenged on whether the Legislature should continue to fight to exempt itself from public records laws that all local governments have to comply with. He’s an open-records advocate, with one caveat.

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