Truth Needle: A TV ad by Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna claiming he "has always opposed property-tax increases" is mostly false.
Claim: A television ad paid for by Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna states that he “has always opposed property-tax increases” and attacks his Democratic opponent Jay Inslee for voting to increase taxes.
What we found: Mostly false
This ad is in response to a charge by Inslee that McKenna supports a complicated property-tax swap that would raise those taxes for some homeowners.
The ad starts off with a clip from an Inslee television ad that calls the tax-swap proposal “a gimmick.” The McKenna ad then refers to newspaper editorials criticizing Inslee and cites McKenna’s opposition to tax increases while saying Inslee voted for a series of tax hikes.
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The ad’s charges that Inslee supported tax increases are hit and miss. For example, as a representative in the state House, Inslee supported a 1989 initiative that would have raised taxes to benefit children’s programs, and he voted in favor of a temporary hospital tax in 1991. But a later vote when he was a member of the U.S. House, also referenced by the ad, is misleading.
In that case, Inslee initially voted in favor of former President Clinton’s 1993 deficit-reduction-and-tax-increase budget, but switched to a no vote in the final compromise bill.
McKenna’s claim that he’s always opposed property-tax increases, however, conflicts with his record as a member of the Metropolitan King County Council before becoming state attorney general in 2005.
County records show McKenna voted six times to increase the county road district levy, voted four times to increase general property taxes and three times to increase levies for emergency medical services and conservation. He also voted against property-tax increases several times.
In addition, the property-tax-swap proposal supported by McKenna would result in taxes going up in some areas, particularly property-rich school districts such as Seattle and Bellevue. Property taxes would go down in many property-poor school districts, such as Yakima.
The general idea is to increase the state property-tax levy for schools, while reducing local school levies by the same amount. The proposal is supposed to be revenue neutral. Lawmakers from both parties considered it a way to partially address a state Supreme Court ruling that said the state relies too heavily on local levies to fund public schools.
McKenna’s campaign manager, Randy Pepple, said the statement that McKenna “has always opposed property-tax increases” was paraphrasing an Oct. 7 Seattle Times article cited in the ad that said McKenna was “known for opposing property-tax increases” as a county council member.
“I would suggest they are comparable statements,” Pepple said in an email.
It is true that McKenna organized efforts to restrain tax increases while on the council and fought to slow the rate of tax increases. But that’s not what the television ad says.
The ad’s assertions about Inslee’s tax votes are not completely on target and the claim that McKenna “has always opposed property-tax increases” is false. Because of that we conclude the ad is mostly false.
Andrew Garber: 360-236-8266 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Seattle Times reporter Kyung Song contributed to this story.