Walla Walla County commissioners discuss sales tax hike

No action was taken on a request to raise the tax to pay for social services.


WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla County commissioners Monday discussed, but took no action, on a proposed sales tax increase.

The proposed one-tenth of 1 percentage point increase in the county sales tax would be used to increase mental health and substance abuse services.

Commissioners Perry Dozier, Gregg Loney and Greg Tompkins said they needed additional time to consider written testimony and information provided by staff in response to questions.

The commissioners next scheduled meeting will be Monday.

If enacted, the tax increase would amount to 1 cent on each $10 purchase of nonessential goods. Essential items such as groceries and prescription drugs would be exempt. The tax funds could be used only for new or expanded mental health and chemical dependency services.

The state law that allows counties to implement the tax was enacted by the state Legislature in 2005.

According to county Human Services Director Daryl Daugs the tax increase would raise between $700,000 and $800,000 per year. The money would fund at least two psychiatric nurse practitioners and one substance abuse specialist at the county level.

During the discussion, which Daugs also took part in, topics included constraints on how local governments can spend money, the need for additional services, how long it would take to get people "up and running" if they are hired and oversight and review of how the funds would be spent.

Loney said that one question that has been settled is whether commissioners could impose a tax of less than one-tenth of 1 percentage point.

After consulting with the county Prosecuting Attorney's Office, the answer is "no." The law allows only that amount to be imposed, he said.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.


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