Gregoire's half-cent tax sales tax proposal is a big step
An impassioned Governor Gregoire announced a proposal to raise the state’s sale tax by a half-cent, Monday.  

“We cannot continue to undermine the very fabric of our state,” Gregoiresaid.  “It’s time for us to spend one half penny to invest in the future of our state.”

It’s a big step for the Governor. For the last several years in response to budget holes she has held the line on tax increases, arguing that the voters of the state have been clear that they want an all-cuts approach.  There have been some selected fee increases, but no general tax hike.  

It’s been since 1983 that the state portion of the sales tax has been raised. 

“It’s time for this generation, our generation, to step up and see to it that we do build a future,” the Governor said. 

Here are the details of Gregoire’s half-cent proposal:  

  • Statewide vote in March 2012
  • $494 million raised annually
  • Three years duration
  • Used for education, healthcare, public safety

The state portion of the sales tax is 6.5% and would rise to 7% under the Governor’s plan.  Local governments add additional sales taxes.  For instance, in most of King County the current sales tax is 9.5%. 

Republicans were quick to pounce on the Governor’s proposal.

“I don’t think it’s time yet to be looking at revenue,” said State Senator Mike Hewitt, Republican leader from Walla Walla.  “We should be looking reform and other ways to do this.”

It will take a majority of the Legislature to send this to the voters.  Democrats control both houses in Olympia, so it’s expected that this kind of thing can make it to the ballot. 

But what about voters?  Will they go for this kind of thing?  Many skeptics, point to last year’s election, 2010, when voters here turned down a new income tax, turned down a soda pop tax.  It’s been a year, so the mood could have changed.  The Governor today said she has changed on taxes, that after over three years of making deep cuts she thinks the people will too.