Tax Dispute Heats Up in Washington
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
A tax battle is brewing in Washington state, where Democrats have proposed the first general sales-tax hike in 27 years — suspending a voter-approved initiative in order to do so.
Minority Republicans, unable to stop the plan, instead have used delaying tactics to shine an election-year spotlight on Democratic tax proposals, which are meant to address a $2.7 billion budget shortfall.
The first specifics of Democratic tax-increase proposals came to light this week. Senate Democrats would raise $918 million in part by hiking the state sales tax by three-tenths of a cent, to 6.8 cents , The Seattle Times reported today (Feb. 24). It would mark the first general sales-tax increase in Washington since 1983. House Democrats have their own plans to raise taxes by $857 million, but they haven't yet announced which taxes they propose to hike, according to the Times.
The proposals come after a week of intense wrangling over a procedural move that paved the way for them. Democrats last week suspended a voter-approved initiative that requires a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to hike taxes. (Under Washington law, lawmakers can suspend an enacted voter initiative after two years have passed.) With the initiative now suspended, Democrats can raise taxes with a simple majority vote.
Republicans have pounced on the move as flying in the face of voters' will. Unable to stop the process from moving forward, GOP members in the state House tried their best to delay it, carrying out a kind of filibuster that allowed lawmakers "to speechify for hours before there could be an up or down vote on the actual bill," seattlepi.com reported.
"When the people said two thirds vote, they meant two thirds vote," one Republican lawmaker told seattlepi.com, suggesting that the issue is likely to remain campaign fodder through November.