WA Legislature tackles cuts, taxes to balance budget




Posted on January 11, 2010 at 7:22 AM

Updated Monday, Jan 11 at 6:32 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The 2010 legislative session began Monday afternoon with talk of budget cuts, tax increases and ideas to stimulate job creation.

Even before the gavel dropped, signaling the start of the session, the Capitol was buzzing. Monday morning, a handful of citizens who rely on state assistance visited with the Governor, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane and the Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, to try to persuade the lawmakers from cutting the programs they rely on.

At the same time, anti-tax advocate Tim Eyman filed paperwork for an initiative in the Secretary of State's office. Eyman fears legislators will overturn or suspend his 2007 initiative that required voter approval, or a two-third majority at the Capitol to raise taxes.

Democratic leaders have said to I-960 could be suspended to allow for closing tax loopholes or creating new streams of revenue.

Last week, Democratic lawmakers floated several ideas to help close the gap. Some of those ideas include taxing bottles water and baked goods. Currently those products are exempt from taxes. Another idea, increasing the B and O tax to businesses. Sen. Brown says everything is on the table including a possible state income tax for some Washingtonians.

"Our affluent citizens pay very little for the state they live in," she said.

Governor Chris Gregoire admits more cuts are needed to balance the budget. Last week, Gregoire announced she intends to consolidate prisons and juvenile justice facilities. Gregoire says she wants to lessen the burden on state residents,"

"I will do whatever I can to assure that raising revenue does not hurt our recovery. That is my priority," said Gregoire.

Republicans lawmakers say they do not want to raise taxes. They are looking at reforming government programs and possibly privatizing some government functions in order to save money.

Legislators do not have much time. They have 60 days to fix the budget.

Moments after calling the session into order, Chopp asked representatives for a moment of silence to honor the state's law enforcement officers killed on duty recently.