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House Democrats eyeing tax vote for spring ballot

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Sep. 9, 2011 at 9:49 am | 1 Comment »
September 9, 2011 10:55 am

As they wait for details of the revenue forecast, lawmakers are divided on whether to return to Olympia right away or hold off until January.

Opinions don’t divide along party lines.

Senate Democrats are eyeing the possibility of a November or December return, while Senate Republican leaders are lining up behind Sen. Joe Zarelli, who says more time is needed to figure out a plan that can pass bipartisan muster.

In the House, Democrats don’t agree with their Republican counterparts on much — certainly not on the budget that passed this winter with no GOP votes — but some leaders on both sides say time is of the essence.

House Democrats have a unique reason for haste: they may try to put a ballot measure in front of voters next spring. Their leaders are considering the idea of asking voters to stave off the deepest of the cuts by raising tax revenue.

Their leaders bounced around ideas for revenue at a meeting Wednesday, with potential targets ranging from the sales tax to tax exemptions like the ones banks receive for mortgage interest, Pierce County state Rep. Tami Green said.

It’s unlikely lawmakers could summon the supermajorities required to pass a tax increase unilaterally, so they would have to turn to voters. But even the simple majority it takes to include taxes in the equation is far from politically simple. The votes weren’t there this winter.

Green said another big drop in revenue might change that. She said this time it may be the other way around: House Democrats may not have the votes to reach a deal without new taxes.

The Senate’s majority Democrats met Thursday to talk about their options. Budget chairman Ed Murray said a deal might come together in time for a special session in November or December but probably not sooner. Murray said he wants new tax revenue as part of an agreement, but isn’t speaking for his caucus.

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