"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)

A tax issue?

Governor Chris Gregoire‘s proposal for the legislative special session next month includes loads more cuts and no revenue increases – tax or other increases. She’s not going there, on her own at least.

But she also included language in her statement that if the Legislature wanted to include revenue increases, she wouldn’t necessarily stand in the way.

There’s what looks like a complex set of dance steps on the Washington revenue front. Depending on how it plays out, Republicans might wind up with some bitter medicine which they mixed all by themselves.

Although Democrats control both House and Senate, they lack the two-thirds vote that a Tim Eyman initiative requires for a tax increase – and the Republicans definitely ain’t going there. But there is another option: Run a ballot issue asking the voters to increase taxes.

This seems problematic at first. But voters approved a challenged gas tax not many years ago. The point could be made that the state has in fact cut billions from spending, and the further point of what consequences would be if another $2 billion in cuts (Gregoire’s initial proposal) are made. Let them make the policy choice … and it wouldn’t be a surprise, really, if they went for taxes under the circumstances.

That’s not a foregone conclusion, of course. But considering Washington’s overall temperament, and the recent change in discussions (assuming it didn’t shift again) toward social needs, an approval would not be a great shock.

And it may happen. There’s this quote out today, for example, from Senator Ed Murray, D-Seattle: “We have to write a budget that actually balances, with draconian cuts in it. My hope is to ask the voters to get some of those cuts back.”

If voters did approve such a tax, that would severely blunt the Republican message during a key election cycle. As a political dynamic, it’s not hard to imagine Democrats glomming on to it.

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