Inslee will seek to extend temporary taxes

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee today will call for extending taxes set to expire this summer as part of his plan for balancing the next state budget and steering more than $1 billion of new money into public schools in the coming two years.

Inslee also will identify tax breaks he wants to close as a means of raising revenue to erase a projected budget shortfall and satisfy a Supreme Court directive to better fund the state’s education system.

The governor has scheduled an 11 a.m. news conference to discuss his spending blueprint for the biennium that begins July 1.

While his staff has been mum on the details, the governor teased his plans to aerospace executives Wednesday afternoon.

He said he is focused on making a “healthy down payment” to comply with the court ruling on public school funding. But with an estimated $1.3 billion shortfall, Inslee said new and existing streams of taxes will be needed to make ends meet.

“We are going to put quite a bit of money into our schools,” he told members of the Aerospace Futures Alliance said

“Because there is no Tooth Fairy, it will involve raising some revenues for state government,” he said. “There is going to be some continuation of some existing revenue requirements.

“We’ll look closely at some tax breaks that don’t make sense any more because we’re going to fulfill the paramount duty of our state starting tomorrow,” he said.

Two taxes enacted in 2010 are set to expire July 1. One is a 50-cent-per-gallon tax on beer and the other is a 0.3 percent surcharge on the business and occupation tax paid by doctors, lawyers and accountants.

Inslee did not say if he will call for continuing one or both of the taxes.

The state Department of Revenue estimates the B&O tax surcharge would bring in $534 million over the next two years, and the beer tax would bring in $101 million.

Former Gov. Chris Gregoire recommended continuing both taxes in the budget she proposed in December.

Inslee said one of his first meetings with reporters in January that extending those taxes would not violate his campaign pledge against raising taxes.

“They do not raise taxes on people over the existing level that, in fact, are being paid today,” he said. “And since they do not increase taxes, they are not a tax increase.”

But Republican lawmakers didn’t agree then.

“We believe temporary really meant temporary on those taxes,” said Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville.

With release of his proposal, Inslee will be kicking off the budget debate in Olympia.

The Republican-dominated Senate Majority Coalition plans to release its budget proposal early next week with House Democrats following soon after.

The 105-day legislative session is scheduled to end April 28.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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