Washington lawmakers face another billion-dollar-plus budget shortfall in the 2010 session. That means, with Democrats in control, tax hikes are back on the table. That'ês the somewhat surprising take-away after lawmakers returned to Olympia last week for committee days. Last session, when the deficit was even higher, few dared mention the T-word until a little flurry by a few Democrats in the waning days.
Now Gov. Chris Gregoire, of all people, jump-started the tax talk in response to a question from Associated Press reporter Curt Woodward. The governor said her 'êdoor is open'ê to lawmakers and advocates who want to make the case for a tax package come January. 'êI'êve told them come on in, convince me that that'ês the right thing to do and that the people will support it,'ê said Gregoire in a briefing with Capitol reporters. 'êAt some point the people, I assume, don'êt want us to take any more cuts. I mean I'êm already hearing about why did you cut education? Well there aren'êt any options, we'êre without options.'ê
That's a significant change in tone from a year ago when the governor was campaigning for re-election. Back then she forcefully dismissed talk of new taxes: 'êNow is not the time... period, not the time to consider raising anything,'ê insisted Gregoire at one of her debates with Republican challenger Dino Rossi, who kept insisting that Gregoire would raise taxes if reelected.
Today the Democratic Governor explains her position back then this way: 'êI didn'êt want revenue last year because I couldn'êt figure out how you could you do a revenue package that wouldn'êt hurt the economy — either individuals or businesses. I'êm still stuck in that rut. But I'êve told the leadership come make your case."
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, a Spokane Democrat, was a rare politician open to the idea of tax reform during the last session, even though it went nowhere. Brown isn'êt wasting the moment. Last Thursday she once again raised the issue of taxes