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Gregoire proposes half-cent sales tax increase for Washington

Gov.Chris Gregoire discusses her half-cent sales tax proposal To “buy back” some cuts.
Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
Gov.Chris Gregoire discusses her half-cent sales tax proposal To “buy back” some cuts.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Republicans call it a bad idea. Advocates on the left say it’s not enough. Those are some of the responses to Washington Governor Chris Gregoire’s proposal Monday to temporarily raise the state sales tax.

Gregoire says the time has come to ask Washington voters to approve a tax hike. The Democrat proposes to raise the state portion of the sales tax by half-a-penny. It would expire after three years.

Justification for tax

She would dedicate the money raised – more than $1.5 billion in all – to offset some of the cuts she says are necessary to rebalance the state budget. Those cuts include shortening the school year by four days and letting some inmates out of prison early.

“We must do what’s right and that which is right is one-half penny," Gregoire says. "One-half penny to protect our most vulnerable, to make our communities safe, to educate our population.”

The proposal would require legislative approval. If lawmakers agree by the end of the year, it could go on the ballot in March.

The battle lines 

Majority Democrats in the state Senate were non-committal. Senate Republicans called the tax proposal “insensitive” to the citizens of Washington.

The union SEIU and some advocacy groups called on the legislature to go further and “build on” the governor’s plan.

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Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.