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Originally published Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 3:56 PM

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Gov. Gregoire: Use veto to keep transparency provisions of Initiative 960

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to sign a bill suspending the tax-restraining Initiative 960. She and the Democratic-controlled Legislature are intent on raising taxes. At least, the governor should use a partial veto to retain I-960's provisions to keep voters informed of lawmaker tax votes.

IF smoking in public buildings were still legal in Washington state, the cigar smoke pouring out of the Democratic legislative caucus rooms would darken the skies over Olympia.

The affronts to taxpayers' sensibilities and their wallets were billowing out of the state Capitol Tuesday as legislative leaders released their proposed budgets with audacious revenue increases — the Senate would raise taxes by $918 million, including a boost in the sales tax, and the House by $857 million.

Last week, Gov. Chris Gregoire was a little more restrained, proposing about $605 million in new tax increases — still twice what this page feels is prudent while taxpayers struggle.

This is murky business to be sure, but the governor has an opportunity to clear away the smoke by ensuring voter-approved transparency provisions are left intact when lawmakers raise taxes.

Wednesday, the governor is expected to sign a bill that would suspend Initiative 960. The tax-restraining law requires significant tax increases to be approved by two-thirds vote in the House and Senate.

At the very least, the governor should veto the section of the bill that suspends I-960's transparency measures, which better inform voters when the Legislature raises taxes in an emergency.

Under the initiative, the next statewide voters pamphlet would provide an explanation of the tax increase and lists the names of lawmakers who voted for and against it.

On the ballot, voters would be asked whether they approve of the increased tax — a nonbinding vote but one that can certainly suggest a strong course correction to a Legislature run amok.

If the governor and the Democratic leaders feel strongly justified in flouting this two-year-old initiative and raising taxes on struggling citizens, they certainly should have the courage to put their names on the decision.

If the governor cares about transparency, she should make sure voters have the information handy come election time.

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