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Wed., April 7, 2010, 5:08 p.m.

Tax deal in the offing?

OLYMPIA -- House and Senate negotiators may have reached what they are calling a "go home" deal over taxes.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and House Speaker Frank Chopp started meeting with Gov. Chris Gregoire about 4:35 p.m. today for final discussions on the deal, which would allow the Legislature to adjourn by next Tuesday, the final day of the special session.

Shortly before the meeting, Brown said the deal has no sales tax increase and would include a hike in tax on beer. She declined further comment on it, except to say that it would keep the Senate plan for temporary increases in the business and occupation tax but make permanent a higher B&O tax credit for smaller service businesses.

"Probably there's a tax in there that everyone hates," the Spokane Democrat said.

It would raise an estimated $800 million for the remainder of the biennium, which is important to Senate Democrats, who were resisting any drop in the tax revenue levels because that would require further cuts.

Getting rid of the sales tax increase has been important to House Democrats and Gregoire.

Brown said she is close to having the 25 votes she needs for the deal to pass the Senate. House vote counters reportedly are not sure they have the 50 votes they need for it to pass the House.

It's not clear yet whether they would send the bill to a conference committee for a hearing, and anything that comes out of the committee must have a 24-hour wait "on the bar" before it could be voted on. Going that route means a straight up or down vote in each chamber, no chance for amendment. Or it could be amended onto the tax package that is in the House, which opens it up for amendment in the House before going to the Senate.

Brown called it a "true compromise"...if, in fact they've reached it.

As of 5:05 p.m., Gregoire, Chopp and Brown remained in a meeting in the governor's office with a growing gaggle of reporters massing outside.


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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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