When is raising taxes not raising taxes?

The answer is never. Yet, Gov. Jay Inslee insists his plan to collect an additional $1 billion to fund education is not a tax. What?

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Former Gov. Chris Gregoire was right. Current Gov. Jay Inslee is angling to raise taxes.

In the final days before the General Election, the outgoing governor said at a news conference in Olympia the next governor would have to raise taxes — whether it was Inslee, a Democrat, or Republican Rob McKenna.

Gregoire said raising taxes was the only way she could see to generate enough revenue to provide more than $1 billion for public education to meet the requirements of the state Supreme Court.

“I’m not running for office,” Gregoire said, noting they are candidates. “I’m a realist.”

Last week Inslee unveiled a budget plan that would add $1.2 billion to spending on basic education to meet a court order. He insists these, um, budget enhancements would not be a result of tax hikes.

Given the need to add $1 billion in education spending at a time when the state is working to dig itself out of a $1 billion spending hole, raising taxes is clearly a reasonable option.

Inslee knew the circumstances on the campaign trail. Why did he box himself in with this no-tax pledge? Sure, it might have helped him get elected but what would he do when he had to govern?

Bend reality so far Gumby would be jealous.

Inslee said at a news conference last week that what he proposes isn’t really a tax hike. He insisted he is doing exactly what he promised during the campaign.

“I said I was going to do three things. I was going to increase education funding over $1 billion and I’m doing that. I said I would close tax breaks to make sure that we did do that. I said I would do that without increases in the existing tax rates and I’m doing that,” he said. “I’m comfortable where I am.”

Inslee is pitching a plan that includes raising revenue by eliminating tax breaks and reimposing taxes that were about to expire. If approved, this would affect beer and bottled-water drinkers, out-of-state shoppers and auto buyers who trade in their old cars. About 40 industries (full disclosure, including newspapers) would see their tax breaks trimmed.

Those are tax hikes.

When the state requires taxpayers to give it more money that is the definition of tax increase.

It’s insulting to the public for Inslee to insist he isn’t raising taxes. It’s a political dodge using weasel words.

Inslee would have better served himself and citizens if he had boldly come out and called his tax hikes tax hikes. At least then the debate over his plan would be rooted in reality.

Inslee is going to have a fight on his hands with the Republican-controlled Senate whether he calls it a tax increase or not.

Calling it a tax increase is honest. It would garner him some respect.

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