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Originally published February 19, 2010 at 2:48 PM | Page modified February 19, 2010 at 7:16 PM

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The Washington Legislature can do more cutting before raising taxes by $1 billion

The Seattle Times editorial board says the Democratic majority in the Washington Legislature seems primed to raise taxes far too much in a recession.

WE want to take the Legislature by the lapels and shake it. The Democrats particularly. The taxing and spending plans now running free in Olympia are their plans, and mostly bad ones.

Washington has been a charmed corner of America. A high-wage corner. We like it that way. But this region's future is not guaranteed, and as we look south, to California, we are not comforted.

California was a charmed corner too, and it is a mess. The state's credit is in the dump. Its business people flee to Nevada, Utah, Idaho and here, as refugees.

Democratic leaders should be focusing on the repair of this state's private sector. Instead they focus on protecting state employees and beneficiaries. Gov. Chris Gregoire proposes $605 million of tax increases — about double the right amount, we think — and leaders such as Ed Murray, D-Seattle and chairman of the Senate Democratic caucus, Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina and chairman of the House Finance Committee, talk of increases as high as $900 million or $1 billion.

This is a failure of leadership. Hunter, in particular, disappoints us because he was supposed to be a moderate. Nine hundred million dollars is not moderate.

Legislators' concern should be for the people's ability to work, to earn, to create wealth. Legislators should be focusing on lightening the burden of the state by culling the highest-paid state employees, freezing the highest-cost pension plans, reopening labor contracts, privatizing the liquor stores, disbanding the state printer, releasing certain middle-aged and elderly prisoners, closing optional social programs such as General Assistance Unemployable and culling the unqualified from the rolls of other programs.

Instead of these things, legislators now propose taxes on bottled water, pop, candy, cigarettes, pipe tobacco, gasoline, diesel, fertilizer, pesticides, collector coins, private aircraft, corporate directors' pay, canned food with meat in it, coal used in power plants, out-of-state banks offering credit cards, the estates of dead people and the income and retail purchases of live people.

They also propose to jack up fees on interior designers, midwives, tanning salons, nursing homes, appraisal companies, wetland scientists and for ballot initiatives, water rights and deeds of trust.

Not all of these will be enacted — and thank God. A few we have endorsed, such as taxes on out-of-state banks and on directors' pay. This page stands firm for the state's first and best social program: education.

But the bulk of the state's financial problem has to be met by cutting what it spends.

The state is not the federal government. It cannot print money or borrow from China. It has to adjust. The private sector has done so. The state must do the same.

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