House Committee OKs temporary sales tax bill - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

House Committee OKs temporary sales tax bill

OLYMPIA, Wash. - A House committee has passed a ballot measure asking voters to temporarily raise the state sales taxes to help offset budget cuts to health care programs.

The committee passed the bill on a 8-7 vote Tuesday morning, with some Democrats voting against it. The measure asks voters to raise the sales tax by three-tenths of a percentage point this November. The proposed tax hike would last for three years, raising about $1.1 billion for health care programs that benefit the poor and disabled. The bill now goes to the House floor.

Lawmakers say the new money is needed to offset the deep budget cuts lawmakers must make to fill at $9 billion shortfall.

Republicans said that now was not the time to be asking cash-strapped voters for more money.

Walsh disagrees that tax increase is the only way

Rep. Maureen Walsh, a member of the committee voting against the proposal, said she was frustrated that during a recession the only option before the Legislature is more tax and fee increases.

"The citizens who came here to speak against tax increases did not mince their words, and they knew exactly what they were saying," said Walsh, R-Walla Walla. "Everyone's struggling right now, and that includes taxpayers. Middle-income families will pay the highest price. Families are being forced to live within their means, and so should government.

"The gorilla in the room is, 'What happens if the voters turn down a tax increase?'" Walsh asked in committee. "The fact that we're relying on a bailout from the taxpayers is irresponsible budgeting. We can take care of these folks who need it the most. It's called prioritizing.

"This tax increase will only help us temporarily, but we have a budget structure right now that spends beyond the state's means," Walsh said. "I'm afraid in two years we'll be right back where we are today."

The prime sponsor of the bill noted at the end of the hearing that if the voters do not pass the tax increase, 'people will die.'

"If we really think that people will die without this tax increase, then the Legislature has neglected its duty to protect the most vulnerable in our state," Walsh said. "No one agrees more that we have a moral obligation to take care of people who can't take care of themselves. But if we punt this to the voters, and they say 'no,' we're going to end up back here in a worse situation next year. We really ought to be looking for a better way to carve some money out of this budget to meet those needs." 


 

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