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Editorials

Editor’s note: Today’s editorials originally appeared the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.

Give state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal credit for offering a bold plan to provide needed funding for gaps — and problems — created when the Legislature overhauled the funding of public schools to meet the Supreme Court’s demand that the state fulfill its obligation to fully fund basic education.

Unfortunately, Reykdal’s proposed $2 billion tax to offset property tax cuts and increase school spending might not be constitutional.

Reykdal on Tuesday called for the state to impose capital-gains tax on profits made from the sale of corporate stocks, bonds and other financial assets. It is estimated that tax would generate $2 billion over two years, half of which the school chief wants to use to offset a proposed reduction in the state property tax just raised by lawmakers.

While we, too, would like to see the property tax burden reduced, we believe that a capital-gains tax — which is essentially an income tax — is forbidden by the state constitution. No, it’s not a full-blown tax on what is earned by working, but it is nevertheless a tax on income.

Washington state voters have been staunchly opposed to an income tax since the 1960s. It has been, and we believe it still is, the third rail of Washington state politics.

Still, Reykdal correctly points out problems that have surfaced in the wake of the Legislature’s revamping of educating funding. What lawmakers did was raise the property tax rate across the state while capping in 2019 the amount of money local districts could collect from taxpayers with voter-approved levies.

The result was an infusion of cash this year. Some school districts in the state increased salaries scientifically for teachers.

This won’t necessarily be sustainable, particularly when the local levy funds decrease.

In Walla Walla, for example, the $1.50 cap per $1,000 of assessed value will go down about $2 per $1,000 from the current $3.51.

Under Reykdal’s proposed budget, $1 billion from the capital-gains tax would provide a $150 million boost in services for students with disabilities.

We agree they got short shrift in the funding deal.

Clearly more money needs to be raised or diverted from other areas of the state budget to meet important schools needs.

But proposing an income tax by another name isn’t the answer, it’s simply a good place to start a serious discussion about the need to provide more funding for students with disabilities.

Effort to weaken radiation rules needs thorough scientific review

How much exposure to radiation is acceptable? Most folks would opt for zero. Radiation exposure, at any level, just seems dangerous.

That’s particularly true in Eastern Washington because of our proximity to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Most of us have heard about how those who work at Hanford are constantly tested for radiation exposure, which sends a clear signal that it’s bad for our health.

So, have we been wrong? Is radiation not a cancer risk as we have been told for decades?

Well, the Trump administration is seeking to weaken U.S. radiation regulations. Supporters of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new proposal contend the government’s current no-tolerance rule for radiation damage forces unnecessary spending for handling exposure in accidents at nuclear plants, in medical centers and at other sites.

“This would have a positive effect on human health as well as save billions and billions and billions of dollars,” said Edward Calabrese, a toxicologist at the University of Massachusetts who was the lead witness at a congressional hearing on EPA’s proposal.

The government’s current guidance says any exposure to harmful radiation is a cancer risk.

“Even exposures below 100 millisieverts” — an amount roughly equivalent to 25 chest X-rays or about 14 CT chest scans — “slightly increase the risk of getting cancer in the future,” the EPA’s guidance said.

But that online guidance was revised in July to emphasize the low individual odds of cancer.

“According to radiation safety experts, radiation exposures of ... 100 millisieverts usually result in no harmful health effects, because radiation below these levels is a minor contributor to our overall cancer risk,” the revised policy says.

This shift should not be surprising since Trump’s EPA has already targeted reducing regulations on toxins and pollutants.

Certainly a cost-benefit analysis of regulations is always prudent. So, too, are studies of health risks based on science.

That latter does not seem to the case here. The theory of Calabrese seems to be in conflict with mainstream scientific views.

Jan Beyea, a physicist who has done research on the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, said the EPA proposal on radiation and other potential health threats represents views “generally dismissed by the great bulk of scientists.”

That’s reason enough to slow down the effort to reduce regulations on radiation exposure. Let’s let established science prevail. Our lives could literally depend on it.

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