Inslee: Extending expiring taxes not an increase

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday that he doesn’t consider the extension of temporary taxes — as proposed by his predecessor — a tax increase and that the idea is one of many he is open to as the legislative budget process begins.

At his first official news conference as governor, Inslee said that while he’s not proposing anything specific, he wants to give the Legislature “room to discuss this potential.”

“I don’t want to foreclose the possibility of those being on the table for discussion,” he said. “I’m not proposing it right now. I think it’s something that people are ultimately going to consider.”

Last month, former Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed a budget that would extend taxes on beer and business taxes paid by doctors, lawyers, accountants and others.

Inslee says he’s not breaking his campaign promise eschewing taxes because he doesn’t consider the extensions new taxes.

“These do not increase taxes,” he said. “They do not raise taxes on people over the existing level that they are paying today.”

Inslee was sworn in on Wednesday. He takes office facing a projected $900 million deficit for the next two-year budget ending in mid-2015.

That doesn’t include money lawmakers will need to spend to improve funding for education as directed by the state Supreme Court earlier this year.

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