"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

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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