Budget cuts are no fun, but sales tax hike isn't answer

However, ending the sales tax exemption for residents of states that don't have a sales tax, such as Oregon, makes sense.


Gov. Chris Gregoire must feel she has slashed everything but her wrists as she has tried to hit an ever-changing budget target. Each time she and the Legislature get close, the target moves deeper into the sea of red ink.

All the cutting has Gregoire seeing a different kind of red. "I have seen the ramifications of the cuts. I can't live with it," she told The Associated Press.

So she has decided to push for more revenue by asking voters to approve a temporary half-cent sales tax increase from 6.5 percent to 7 percent. The tax would end in 2015.

Sure it will.

No one disputes the budget situation is awful and the cuts hurt. Maybe there have been taxes that have been collected for short periods of time and then taken off the books, but it is doubtful the public will buy into it.

Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, understands that even if government is hurting, people are hurting more. "To talk about raising taxes at a time when people are out of work and can't afford it suggests an insensitivity to what the citizens of this state are going through," he said is a news release.

Gregoire did hit on one point that should garner support. She wants to repeal the sales tax exemption for residents who live in states without a sales tax, such as Oregon.

Out-of-state residents contribute to the deterioration of streets; they expect law enforcement services if they are involved in an accident. It is only right that they help pay for these services.

As a border community, Walla Walla understands that some Oregon shoppers might consider staying at home rather than crossing the border if they were required to fork over sales tax. However, if merchants are competitive in their prices -- and the shopper already happens to be in Washington -- chances are the purchase will be made. Oregon shoppers will quickly calculate that it is cheaper to pay a few pennies for the convenience and availability of the product than it would be to pay dollars for gasoline and wear and tear on their vehicles to travel to a store in Oregon that could fill their purchase needs.

Finding ways to save money (such as the state auditor's report that found savings in eliminating unnecessary cellphones) and assuring that everyone is paying their fair share (such as eliminating the sales tax exemption) may not ease the governor's heartburn, but they will be another necessary step in getting government down to its proper size.


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