Lawmakers must consider cuts before raising taxes

And lawmakers should not suspend or modify I-960, which requires a two-thirds legislative majority or a vote of the people to raise taxes.

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Talk of raising taxes began before the sound of the gavel opening the 2010 Legislature stopped reverberating off the Capitol's marble walls.

It's outrageous. Lawmakers must first look at making reasonable cuts in spending to plug the current $2.6 billion budget gap.

We concede that, in the end, cuts alone might not trim enough to fill a hole of that size. Still, lawmakers must try.

And if lawmakers do seek higher taxes they should do so under Initiative 960, which requires a two-thirds legislative majority or voter approval for tax increases.

We did not endorse I-960 because we felt it was unnecessary to have a public vote for every tax or fee increase. We elect legislators to represent us and we expect them to use good judgment. We still hold that view.

However, voters saw it differently and imposed the requirements for raising taxes. The will of the voters should be followed.

The Seattle Times reported Monday that top Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have indicated they'll suspend or modify I-960.

In addition, The Times reported, the Democratic majority in the Legislature expects to raise taxes, although the leadership hasn't indicated exactly what taxes they might hike.

Last week there was talk -- perhaps floated as a trial balloon -- about boosting the statewide sales tax. Thankfully, that idea seems to be fading (but it's not dead).

Instead, some lawmakers are now touting a more targeted approach such as extending the sales tax to candy, muffins and bottled water. Look for tobacco taxes to go higher. They say it's possible tax loopholes and exemptions that allow companies to avoid sales or business taxes will be closed.

Still, we aren't certain on what is a real proposal and what's political hyperbole. For example, Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposed budget, released in early December, called for gutting core services to the poor and suspending programs such as all-day kindergarten. It was a ploy aimed at showing the public the horrors of a budget without tax hikes.

That budget was built on politics, not reason. We continue to believe cuts can be made that are palatable for most citizens. Start by freezing the wages of all state employees.

State officials did call for a pay freeze for some state workers, but not all. Union employees not at the top of the pay scale have received pay increases, an average of 5 percent annually. The value of those pay raises has been calculated at $83 million in the current two-year budget cycle.

If legislators believe they have a case for higher taxes, they must obtain the two-thirds majority or sell it to the voters.

It's simply wrong to crush I-960 with a legislative bulldozer. It is particularly galling because lawmakers and Gregoire have not given serious consideration to spending cuts before turning their attention to higher taxes.

Lawmakers must consider cuts before raising taxes
And lawmakers should not suspend or modify I-960, which requires a two-thirds legislative majority or a vote of the people to raise taxes.
Talk of raising taxes began before the sound of the gavel opening the 2010 Legislature stopped reverberating off the Capitol's marble walls.
It's outrageous. Lawmakers must first look at making reasonable cuts in spending to plug the current $2.6 billion budget gap.
We concede that, in the end, cuts alone might not trim enough to fill a hole of that size. Still, lawmakers must try.
And if lawmakers do seek higher taxes they should do so under Initiative 960, which requires a two-thirds legislative majority or voter approval for tax increases.
We did not endorse I-960 because we felt it was unnecessary to have a public vote for every tax or fee increase. We elect legislators to represent us and we expect them to use good judgment. We still hold that view.
However, voters saw it differently and imposed the requirements for raising taxes. The will of the voters should be followed.
The Seattle Times reported Monday that top Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have indicated they'll suspend or modify I-960.
In addition, The Times reported, the Democratic majority in the Legislature expects to raise taxes, although the leadership hasn't indicated exactly what taxes they might hike.
Last week there was talk -- perhaps floated as a trial balloon -- about boosting the statewide sales tax. Thankfully, that idea seems to be fading (but it's not dead).
Instead, some lawmakers are now touting a more targeted approach such as extending the sales tax to candy, muffins and bottled water. Look for tobacco taxes to go higher. They say it's possible tax loopholes and exemptions that allow companies to avoid sales or business taxes will be closed.
Still, we aren't certain on what is a real proposal and what's political hyperbole. For example, Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposed budget, released in early December, called for gutting core services to the poor and suspending programs such as all-day kindergarten. It was a ploy aimed at showing the public the horrors of a budget without tax hikes.
That budget was built on politics, not reason. We continue to believe cuts can be made that are palatable for most citizens. Start by freezing the wages of all state employees.
State officials did call for a pay freeze for some state workers, but not all. Union employees not at the top of the pay scale have received pay increases, an average of 5 percent annually. The value of those pay raises has been calculated at $83 million in the current two-year budget cycle.
If legislators believe they have a case for higher taxes, they must obtain the two-thirds majority or sell it to the voters.
It's simply wrong to crush I-960 with a legislative bulldozer. It is particularly galling because lawmakers and Gregoire have not given serious consideration to spending cuts before turning their attention to higher taxes.

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