Budget crisis
2:50 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Gregoire proposes half-cent sales tax increase for Washington

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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