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January 11, 2010 at 12:05 PM

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Eyman's back, and Gregoire's coy on tax increases

Posted by Jim Brunner

OLYMPIA -- Another year, another Tim Eyman initiative.

Washington state's most prolific initiative sponsor and some supporters dropped by Secretary of State Sam Reed's office this morning to announce his intent to run an initiative on the 2010 ballot that would once again require a two-thirds vote of the state Legislature to raise taxes.

Eyman was prompted by signals from top Democrats that they'll suspend Initiative 960, passed in 2007, in order to consider some tax increases to close the state's $2.6 billion budget gap.

Eyman noted that voters have endorsed the two-thirds requirement three times.

"You'd think that a fourth time shouldn't be necessary," Eyman said.

Eyman was joined by other co-sponsors, including state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, and Sen. Janea Holmquist, R-Moses Lake.

Holmquist said the measure may be necessary "because my Democrat colleagues cannot control themselves."

Whether they follow through with an initiative depends on what lawmakers do in the next 60 days.

"In a lot of ways it's less in our hands and more in the hands of the Legislature. The more they restrain themselves and the more they can actually hold back from raising taxes, it actually kills our signature drive," Eyman said during a news conference. "But that wouldn't make us very sad at all. That would actually be a good outcome."

And there are signs that Democrats are hoping to avoid major tax increases, even if that means relying largely on service cuts and one-time federal aid.

When she released an initial budget last month, Gov. Chris Gregoire talked about the need to find a sustainable budget fix -- a three-year budget plan rather than a temporary one-year patch.

But recently, Gregoire has indicated she may go for a more temporary fix. She's said she's willing to dial back tax increases depending on how much federal aid the state gets.

In any case, when the governor appears before the Senate Ways & Means Committee Tuesday to talk about her budget proposal, it'll be more of a wish list of programs -- like the Basic Health Plan -- that she hopes to avoid cutting, rather than a specific plan on how to pay for it.

Even though she may not be proposing a general tax increase, Gregoire still bashed Eyman, saying his initiatives could drive Washington to financial ruin like California -- a state she said has been "initiatived to death."

If Eyman wants to legislate, Gregoire said, he should "come on down and run for election." If not, he should "leave it to us."

Stay tuned.

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Jim Brunner
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