Larry Springer seeks sixth term in house

June 12, 2014

By Ari Cetron

New: June 12, 1:16 p.m.

After a decade in Olympia, Larry Springer is seeking another term representing the 45th District.
“I love the work,” Springer said. “It’s stimulating. It’s exciting, and I’m a problem solver.”
Springer, 67, is running for his sixth term in the state House representing the 45th District, which covers the northern half of Sammamish along with Redmond, Kirkland and parts of Woodinville. The former Kirkland mayor owns a wine shop with his wife, who is the deputy mayor of Kirkland.
If he is elected, Springer expects education to dominate the next session of the Legislature. The courts are expecting the state to come up with more than $3 billion for education in the next few years. Since he sits on the House’s appropriations and finance committees, he expects to be in the thick of any discussions, should he win re-election.
Springer wants the state to come up with education funds but, at the same time, he’d like to find a way to overhaul the entire tax system. The state’s system relies heavily on sales taxes, he said. That taxing structure forces low-income people to spend a higher percentage of their income on taxes than wealthier people.
“How are we going to deal with an incredibly regressive tax system and come up with $3 to $3.5 billion?” Springer said. “I think we have to have a very comprehensive, no holds-barred conversation.”
Springer acknowledged voters have consistently rejected the idea of a state income tax. However, he believed any discussion about that idea would need to be part of a larger deal, a sort of grand bargain on taxing at the state level, which would explain which taxes go up, which might go down, and by how much. He said there would likely need to be constitutional caps put in place to ensure the changes stick.
The state’s current tax system has numerous other flaws, Springer believes. For example, sales taxes are only applied to goods. While that might have made sense in the mid-1970s, people today spend more money on services than on goods.
Any large-scale tax restructuring, possibly brokered by an independent commission, would study everything from sales and income taxes, business taxes and tax exemptions – sometimes called loopholes.
The idea would be to re-write the entire tax code and do it in such a way that it raises enough money to support current state programs and the additional money required to fund education.
“We would need to look at everything,” he said. “Going at it piecemeal doesn’t get us anywhere.”
Simply cutting other parts of government, he said, is not the answer. For one, Springer said, the state has been cutting programs since 2008 and there’s not much left to cut. Gutting environmental programs or social safety nets in order to fund schools is not a good solution either.
“We’re going to end up as a low-tax, low-service backwater,” he said.
He would also like to see a transportation package passed. He’s not as intimately involved in transportation issues, but supports the House plan to, in part, raise gas taxes 10 cents and add a car-tab tax equal to 0.7 percent of a vehicle’s value. The House has twice passed that plan before it died in the Senate.
Springer said he would even prefer a plan proposed by Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima), which calls for a higher gas tax, and finds a way to fully fund the state Highway 520 bridge project.
“I certainly will put pressure to get a package,” he said.
Another priority for Springer is to again find state support for an idea he calls “value capture financing,” which has been known as tax increment financing. Under that system, when an area is redeveloped, the additional tax revenue generated is used to pay for the cost of infrastructure associated with that development.
The tactic has proven controversial on the national level. Supporters said it helps attract development to blighted or underused areas and spurs economic growth. Opponents said those areas might have been redeveloped anyway, and the costs end up being pushed to area residents while developers enjoy a tax break.
Springer will face political newcomer Brendan Woodward in the November general election.

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