Sen. Paull Shin is supporting Governor Chris Gregoire's proposal to ask the voters to increase the state sales tax in order to offset the drastic cuts that would be necessary to balance the state budget. But he is concerned that the increase doesn't go far enough.
Shin, D-Edmonds, said that in the 43 years he has lived in Washington, the state has never experienced such an unprecedented economic downturn. “We are in an emergency situation,” Shin said. “If we are going to increase the sales tax, let’s do so in a way that truly has an impact on education, public safety, and social services.”
Shin says the governor’s proposal bears many similarities to a measure he sponsored in April. Senate Bill 5937 would have temporarily increased the state sales tax by one percent until the end of the 2011-13 biennium. The tax would also expire if the state’s unemployment rate dropped below six and a half percent before the end of the biennium. Although the bill did not pass during the 2011 session, Shin says he will bring forward a similar measure during the upcoming special session.
“A one percent increase in our sales tax could raise over $1 billion,” he said. “I believe that a comprehensive revenue package, combined with the cuts my colleagues and I have and will make, represents a more balanced approach to providing services that will benefit the most vulnerable residents in the state.”
The governor’s proposed half cent increase would represent the first change in the sales tax rate in 28 years. Shin says the increase is a step in the right direction, but is only expected to raise about $500 million for the current biennium, compared to a nearly $2 billion shortfall.
“The Governor’s proposed increase is so small that on a $10 purchase, a person would only pay five cents more,” Shin said. “Why not nine cents? Is a few cents extra too much to ask to keep open the doors at our colleges and universities? Can we not spare a nickel to keep our grandparents safe and healthy? Ultimately, this is a small increase for each of us individually, but together, as a united family, we as Washingtonians can live in the kind of state we have come to love and cherish.”
“Believe me when I say that I know what these cuts are doing to our people,” Shin said. “As an American, and as a Washingtonian, I for one cannot stand idly by while our citizens are sleeping in the streets and while our seniors and disabled are dying in their homes without proper care.”
If approved by the Legislature, the governor’s request could go before the voters as a referendum on the ballot.