GOP candidate Carlson backs off on tax-cut plan

Associated Press

SEATTLE — Maybe Democats aren’t the only ones using "fuzzy math."

Republican gubernatorial candidate John Carlson has dropped part of his property-tax-cut plan, saying the Legislature is unlikely to approve a constitutional amendment that would allow exemption of $100,000 of a home’s value.

A spokesman for incumbent Democratic Gov. Gary Locke characterized the plan as irresponsible.

"He’s spending money the way he’s building bridges. It’s the same money over and over again," said Locke spokesman Ed Penhale. He was referring to the Locke-Carlson debate last month, in which Locke said Carlson was using the same tax revenues to promise expensive new bridges near Seattle and Vancouver, essentially spending the same money twice.

Carlson, a longtime conservative radio-talk-show host, said Friday he was shifting his position on the $100,000 property-tax exemption because he wants reform as soon as possible. It takes a two-thirds vote by the Legislature to approve an amendment to the Washington state constitution, though other property-tax breaks would require only a simple majority.

"I just want to take action right away in my first year on the job," he said at a news conference.

In addition to backing Initiative 722, which would limit property-tax increases to 2 percent per year, Carlson said he wants to eliminate the state’s share of the tax over 10 years.

The phase-out would cost the state $340 million in the first two years, and Carlson says he’d make up the lost revenue with part of the state’s $1 billion budget surplus. Beyond that, he says he would streamline government to reduce spending.

The Legislature failed to pass several property-tax-reduction plans this year, including one proposed by Locke that would have cut the state share by $120 million a year.

In last week’s presidential debate, Republican nominee George W. Bush accused Democrat Al Gore of relying on "fuzzy math" to criticize his tax-cut plan.

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