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July 1, 2010 at 11:02 AM

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Bill Gates Sr. makes his case for income tax initiative

Posted by Andrew Garber

Bill Gates Sr. fielded questions from reporters Thursday morning, sometimes with a note of exasperation, about the income tax initiative 1098.

I-1098 sponsors turned in 350,000 signatures, with another 20,000 expected Friday -- more than enough to qualify the measure for the ballot. The initiative would impose an income tax on individuals earning $200,000 or more a year and couples earning $400,000 and up. It also would cut the state property tax by 20 percent and increase the business-and-occupation tax credit to $4,800 from $420.

One question that seemed to rile Gates was why he's supporting an income tax proposal that's quite different from one suggested by the Washington State Tax Structure Study Committee back in 2002. Gates chaired the committee.

An alternative put forward by that study recommended: "A flat rate personal income tax to reduce the state sales tax rate and eliminate the state property tax. Share all or part of the state property tax relief with local governments and/or local schools."

Gates' reaction on Thursday: "The fact of the matter is, this is something designed to happen. Those were just models set up in a report from a committee as a way to look at how taxes could be changed in this state," he said. "It doesn't represent something that I'm wed to. I'm wed to doing something that works, and this works."

I-1098 sponsors say the new tax would bring in about $1 billion a year for education and health care.

Reporters asked Gates about claims by critics that the lawmakers won't be able to resist expanding the income tax in the future to include most taxpayers. "They say that," Gates responded. "How do they know?"

Gates, a prominent Seattle attorney and the father of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates Jr., also was asked about opposition from the Washington Roundtable, an association of corporate executives.

"This is a world in which different people have different ideas about things. There's no getting around that. That's what politics is about. Those are all fine people. Friends now and friends ever to be, but the fact remains that their interests are just inimical for what's best for this state and they're wrong," he said.

Gates acknowledged the income tax proposal by itself would not take care of the multi-billion dollar shortfalls the state faces in the coming years.

"It doesn't solve that basic problem," he said. "We're having a recession and there isn't anything voters can do about that, in my opinion. That's something that comes and ultimately will go. That fact remains we want at this time, regardless of the economic situation, to have a state in which we are amply funding education."

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Jim Brunner
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