Don't look for taxes next session, Gregoire says



Posted on November 3, 2010 at 2:53 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 3 at 11:22 PM

SEATAC, Wash. - The day after voters added to the state's deficit, Washington's Governor said taxes would not likely be part of the next legislative session.

"You can't deny the voice of the people, they have said no new revenue," said Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Voters Tuesday overturned taxes added to bottled water, soda and candy.

That is expected to add approximately $218 million to the 2011-2013 projected deficit.

Prior to election night, the estimated budget gap was around $4.5 billion.

Voters also reinstated the two-thirds majority needed for lawmakers to raise taxes and said no to creating an income tax.

The governor, speaking to reporters at Sea-Tac Airport before heading to Germany on a business trip, said the state may have to eliminate programs like the Basic Health Plan.

Currently around 75,000 citizens get medical coverage under that plan. Ending it could save $220 million.

"I'm very concerned," said Basic Health Plan recipient Justin Wilcox.

The Seattle entrepreneur qualifies for coverage because of his low income.

Wilcox hopes his medical software company, "Nimbus Health" will someday enable him to afford his own health insurance.

But if the program is eliminated, he said he's afraid he might have to give up his dream, and go looking for a job that has insurance.

"Which is bad news for everyone else," Wilcox said. "Now I'm standing in a line trying to get a job everyone else is trying to get."

However, some observers don’t believe the cuts need to be that drastic.
“When I hear quotes like that, I think the Governor as our leader is not being creative,” says Paul Guppy of the Washington Policy Center, a conservative think tank, “Step back and think about the commitments and costs in the future.”
Guppy suggests state lawmakers look at removing bans on competitive contracts or charter schools.  The latter has been rejected by voters numerous times.  But he believes there are alternatives.
“110,000 people work for the state, and even a slight percentage change in how health care benefits are handled for example, that can save hundreds of millions of dollars to the state right there,” says Guppy.
The WPC researcher also says the state could consider selling off more land to reduce the deficit.