The Washington state capitol in Olympia.
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The Washington state capitol in Olympia.

Here's what state lawmakers will be fighting about when they start work next week

Political analysts C.R. Douglas and Joni Balter talk with Angela King about the top priorities for the 2019 state legislative session, which begins January 14.

The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

What's the big issue before lawmakers this session?

C.R. Douglas: Mental health funding and reform, without a doubt, is front and center this session. They have been neglected for years and that has led to a system in crisis. And interestingly, the issue doesn't really separate the parties.

Joni Balter: Look, fellow Washingtonians, think of yourselves as lab rats this session: Governor Jay Inslee's lab rats. He's in the hunt, as everybody knows, for the 2020 presidential race, so our governor all session long is going to be thinking about the Washington experiment, which requires testing ideas and pushing those ideas.

Let's start with the capital gains tax. Sure, this is local and the governor has been interested in this for for a couple years. But it's also a toss nationally to the Bernie Sanders crowd. Same goes for the recently announced public option in health care. The governor even said, look this is the first step toward universal health care.

What about the biggest fights?

C.R. Douglas: I think you're already hearing heated rhetoric over the local school levy issue, and this is directly tied to that McCleary school funding package in the last budget. Lawmakers back then solved the largest piece of the basic education problem by significantly increasing state property taxes for schools, while at the same time reducing the amount that districts could raise from local levies. It was a property tax swap, a promise really, that left people's overall tax burden roughly the same.

Well, that deal lasted about a year before Inslee decided he wants to bust it and lift those caps on local levies. He now argues that districts should be allowed to raise more money from voters that they can. And the GOP is on fire about this. They want that original tax swap deal to stick. They may not have the votes to stop Inslee here, but they're sure gonna be loud and aggressive in their fight against it.

Joni Balter: The governor has also proposed an increase in the business and occupation tax on services. And I think that is going to be a big fight. Business and occupation tax applies to attorneys, accountants, hairstylists. And here's the deal: Everybody has a hairstylist or a haircutter and they are going to let them know that they do not like that and they will be doing that with scissors in one hand and a clump of your hair in the other.

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