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April 1, 2010 at 2:45 PM

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State Senate looking for ways to dump proposed sales tax

Posted by Andrew Garber

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown says she's trying to develop a tax package that does not include a sales tax.

This is the first sign of movement on the tax question since the Legislature went into special session on March 15.

Brown said in a telephone interview Thursday that she told the governor and House Democratic leaders recently she'd try to develop a new proposal that raises $800 million without a sales tax. "But it's not done until it's done," she said.

The Legislature went into special session because the Senate wanted a temporary general sales-tax increase to help close a $2.8 billion budget shortfall, but House Democratic leaders said they didn't have the votes.

Brown said it's still not clear if she can come up with enough votes in the Senate to pass a revenue package without a sales tax. "I guess I'm just going to keep having conversations until I know. I'm having a series of meetings with members and phone conversations. So that's what I'm in the middle of," she said.

Both the House and Senate have agreed to raise roughly $800 million through taxes to help close the budget shortfall. They've even agreed on certain steps, such as boosting the cigarette tax.

There's also broad agreement to make several hundred million dollars in cuts and to use one-time fixes such as federal aid and reserves to help bridge the gap.

Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, the Senate's lead negotiator on taxes, said that even if the Senate drops the sales tax, there still could be disagreements with the House about other taxes being considered.

House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, was more optimistic. "If it doesn't include that (a sales tax), hey we can go anywhere then. Just look at all the options," she said.

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Jim Brunner
Covers politics.

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Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Covers local government.

Mike Lindblom
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Kyung Song
Covers politics and regional issues from Washington, D.C.

Lynn Thompson
Covers Seattle City Hall.

Bob Young
Covers King County and urban affairs.