A press release just arrived with a statement from House Speaker Frank Chopp endorsing the proposal to put a sales tax hike measure on the ballot.
This is notable because Mr. Speaker doesn’t usually take positions on legislation in press releases, especially ones that haven’t even been acted on by a committee.
His statement reads:
“To meet the challenges of the most difficult national recession in decades, we have worked hard to cut spending, make government more efficient and keep the priorities of our people foremost in mind,” said House Speaker Frank Chopp. “I strongly support this referendum to meet the needs of our people for critical care in hospitals, nursing homes and basic health.”
“At the same time, we must bring a greater sense of fairness to our revenue system. That is why the Working Families Tax Credit is so important – to give a break to those who need it the most. As we move forward to a stronger economy, we must not leave anyone behind and must appeal to the goodness of our citizens to care for all.”
Seattle Rep. Eric Pettigrew declared at the end of today’s two-hearing on his proposed sales tax increase measure: “If voters do not pass this legislation, people will die.”
Emergency rooms will fill up, nursing homes will bulge with residents, people will be forced onto the street and people will lose their lives, he said.
It put an emotional exclamation point at the end of an emotion-filled hearing.
Pettigrew is pushing to get a measure on the ballot raising the state portion of the sales tax by three-tenths of a percent starting Jan. 1, 2010 and lasting three years.
As much as $1 billion could be collected and his legislation earmarks about half of that into healthcare and social service programs and the as-yet operating Working Families Tax Credit program.
Not every speaker today supported the measure
Initiative promoter Tim Eyman said “you’re fooling no one” with this legislation.
“It’s become the oldest trick in the book – fund non-essential programs with existing taxes, then hold essential programs hostage, demanding a voter-approved ransom to get them back,” he said.
One interesting exchange came between Democratic Rep. Mark Miloscia and Nick Federici of the Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance.
Federici backed the legislation. The state budget is a moral document that right now is going to cause a lot of pain for those trying to survive on little income. Passing the legislation would mean fewer of them will be harmed by the budget cuts.
Miloscia asked: “Will this solve our problems? Can you say this budget will be a moral document if we pass this?”
Federici said the legislation would not solve the budget problems. “Certainly this will make the budget less immoral,” he said.