Where leaders stand on sales tax

OLYMPIA — Snohomish County lawmakers are united in their distaste for raising the sales tax to pay for government programs.

They disagreed Tuesday on whether the proposed three-tenths of a penny hike should be nixed now or put on the ballot for voters to decide this fall.

Republicans are unanimously opposed while Democrats are divided among those who want to do it, those who don’t and those who are still unsure.

“I will give the voters the chance to make the decision,” said Rep. Al O’Brien, D-Mountlake Terrace. “Right now a lot of services will be cut in the next budget. Let’s see if the citizens want to support these services or not.”

Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, offered the opposite view.

“You cannot justify in these economic times going to the people and asking for more money,” she said. “People should be angry that our most vulnerable are being used to convince people to support a tax measure for programs this Legislature should be funding as our highest priority.”

Tuesday morning, the tax referendum cleared its first political hurdle when the House Health and Human Services Committee approved it on an 8-7 vote.

The proposed measure would increase the sales tax by three cents on each $10 of taxable purchases. It would take effect Jan. 1, and last three years.

It would generate an estimated $1 billion. A portion is for rebates to low-income families eligible for a federal earned income tax credit.

Most of the money would go to hospitals, nursing homes, mental health providers, public health clinics and the state-subsidized medical care program for the poor known as the Basic Health Plan.

These services face cuts in funding as the Legislature must pare $4 billion out of its projected state spending through mid-2011 because of budget shortfall.

After Tuesday’s committee action, the legislation’s next stop could be a House vote.

Democratic leaders, whose party hold the majority and will determine the outcome, are not saying when it will come up. There is opposition in the caucus.

“I’m inclined to say no,” said Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, one of the caucus veterans. “The services it will fund are pretty important to a lot of people, but I think the voters won’t go for it right now.”

Rep. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, said the targeted programs provide a safety net he doesn’t want ripped up.

He said he’s concerned an increase would come on the heels of two other hikes in Snohomish County — one for transit and the other for locally funded mental health services. Sales tax rates would range from 8 percent to 9.8 percent should this proposed measure pass.

“I have concerns. I’m not willing to put something on the ballot that I don’t personally support,” he said.

A coalition of health-care interest groups is trying to line up support for a campaign and for passage in the Legislature. A group funded by two Washington business groups is lining up to oppose the measure.

Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, told backers he’ll support putting it on the ballot. He may not vote for it later, and right now he’s not sure it can pass.

“I’ve seen some of the polling data on this. It’s razor thin. I’ll give them the opportunity,” he said.

Two Senate Democrats said they won’t — if the legislation reaches them.

“I will not vote to put it on the ballot,” said Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens. “My constituents said they did not want it.”

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, said: “I am not convinced. People right now are feeling so heavily taxed. I think it will have a hard time in the Senate.”

The measure, if passed by a simple majority in each chamber, will be placed directly on the ballot. No action by the governor is required.

Republicans, with 36 of the 98 House seats, cannot prevent passage. That hasn’t dimmed their passion.

Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, said that had Democrats made other spending decisions, they could have avoided the political drama now unfolding in the session’s final days.

“I find it troublesome that a budget is being planned to purposefully not fund very important items that would be high on my priority list in order to frighten the public into considering an increase in taxes,” she said.

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

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Everett Fire Department and Everett Police on scene of a multiple vehicle collision with injuries in the 1400 block of 41st Street. (Photo provided by Everett Fire Department)
1 seriously injured in crash with box truck, semi truck in Everett

Police closed 41st Street between Rucker and Colby avenues on Wednesday afternoon, right before rush hour.

The Arlington Public Schools Administration Building is pictured on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
$2.5M deficit in Arlington schools could mean dozens of cut positions

The state funding model and inflation have led to Arlington’s money problems, school finance director Gina Zeutenhorst said Tuesday.

Lily Gladstone poses at the premiere of the Hulu miniseries "Under the Bridge" at the DGA Theatre, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Mountlake Terrace’s Lily Gladstone plays cop in Hulu’s ‘Under the Bridge’

The true-crime drama started streaming Wednesday. It’s Gladstone’s first part since her star turn in “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Jesse L. Hartman (Photo provided by Everett Police Department)
Everett man who fled to Mexico given 22 years for fatal shooting

Jesse Hartman crashed into Wyatt Powell’s car and shot him to death. He fled but was arrested on the Mexican border.

Snow is visible along the top of Mount Pilchuck from bank of the Snohomish River on Wednesday, May 10, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Washington issues statewide drought declaration, including Snohomish County

Drought is declared when there is less than 75% of normal water supply and “there is the risk of undue hardship.”

Boeing Quality Engineer Sam Salehpour, right, takes his seat before testifying at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs - Subcommittee on Investigations hearing to examine Boeing's broken safety culture with Ed Pierson, and Joe Jacobsen, right, on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Everett Boeing whistleblower: ‘They are putting out defective airplanes’

Dual Senate hearings Wednesday examined allegations of major safety failures at the aircraft maker.

An Alaska Airline plane lands at Paine Field Saturday on January 23, 2021. (Kevin Clark/The Herald)
Alaska Airlines back in the air after all flights grounded for an hour

Alaska Airlines flights, including those from Paine Field, were grounded Wednesday morning. The FAA lifted the ban around 9 a.m.

A Mukilteo firefighter waves out of a fire truck. (Photo provided by Mukilteo Fire Department)
EMS levy lift would increase tax bill $200 for average Mukilteo house

A measure rejected by voters in 2023 is back. “We’re getting further and further behind as we go through the days,” Fire Chief Glen Albright said.

An emergency overdose kit with naloxone located next to an emergency defibrillator at Mountain View student housing at Everett Community College on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
To combat fentanyl, Snohomish County trickles out cash to recovery groups

The latest dispersal, $77,800 in total, is a wafer-thin slice of the state’s $1.1 billion in opioid lawsuit settlements.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.