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Originally published Friday, February 26, 2010 at 2:55 PM

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Governor, Legislature should have kept two-thirds rule on taxes

The Seattle Times questions the priorities of the Democratic budget writers in Olympia.

WHEN Gov. Chris Gregoire agreed to suspend the two-thirds requirement for the Legislature to raise taxes, she described it as a necessity. We don't think it was.

Some of the revenue proposals would have received Republican votes. Putting together a budget would have been a struggle, but the Legislature could have followed the two-thirds rule on taxes.

Surely the people wanted it that way. Over the years they have voted three times for the two-thirds rule. They still favor it. In a poll of 500 adults done for KING-TV, 74 percent favored the two-thirds rule, and 68 percent said the Legislature and the governor had done the wrong thing to suspend it.

The least Gregoire could have done was retain I-960's transparency provisions, which in part would have explained any new taxes in the voters pamphlet and showed which legislators voted for the taxes.

Legislators say if they can't impose a big tax increase, they will have to cut human-service programs. Look at what the governor and Democratic leaders in Olympia do not threaten to cut by any substantial amount: state employee head count and compensation. In what is supposedly the greatest crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the House plan would cut state employment — 97,853 full-time equivalent workers — by 0.2 percent. The Senate plan would cut it by 1.2 percent.

Neither proposed budget takes away "step" increases — automatic pay raises for state employees not at the top of the pay scale. State employees have lost their cost-of-living raises, but not their step increases.

If the Democratic majority was willing to take on these issues, it would not be putting so many human services on the block in an attempt to raise nearly $1 billion in taxes.

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