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Tue., April 13, 2010, 2:44 p.m.

Gregoire says new taxes worth paying

OLYMPIA -- Repeating a mantra that "tough times require tough choices", Gov. Chris Gregoire patted the Legislature on its collective back as members headed out of town Tuesday.

She sought to minimize the impacts of new taxes, which Republicans have predicted will be job killers. The average Washingtonian drinks 345 cans of soda a year, she said, and the extra 2 cents per can tax that passed Monday amounts to about $7 and the tax on large brewery beer is only 28 cents per six pack.

The extra tax money is going into the operating budget to help with such essential services as public schools, college student aid, health care, child care and help for the disabled and elderly, she said. "I think these things are worth paying for. All of us should be willing to step up."

But some people -- those who chew gum, drink bottled water, soda or mass-production beer -- are being asked to step up more than others. Beer drinkers who favor micro brews don't pay the new beer tax, and wine drinkers get no increase.

Gregoire defended the dichotomy on state grounds, not personal taste preferences. She drinks Washington wines because it supports Washington jobs, her husband Mike drinks Washington microbrews for the same reason, she said.

The governor's office also parsed the amount of "new" money the state will be collecting, listing it at $613 million. That's significantly below the $757 million listed by legislators just a day earlier.

That doesn't mean Gregoire  has decided to line-item veto one of the taxes in the menu. Rather, she said $613 represents the "new revenues" the state didn't have before. Not counted in the "new" are some $155 million in taxes the state used to collect from some out-of-state companies until the state Supreme Court struck down an old tax law last fall in what's known as the DOT Foods decision. That's a restored tax.

(Math whizzes already know in their heads the total still doesn't come to $613 million, but the Legislature was counting a net total that also sliced off about $15 million from the lottery and s a $10 million shift in sales tax from the Seattle Convention Center account. To get its, net, however, the Lege added back in about $12 million worth of tax reductions that affect the bottom line...but, who's counting? OK, so other than the Office of Financial Management.)

Meanwhile, the state's premier initiative promoter filed a series of proposed ballot measures Tuesday to repeal many of the taxes-- bottled water, macro-brew, soda pop,  cigarettes, the business and occupation tax hike on service businesses and the changes to home mortgage taxes --  the Legislature passed Monday. Tim Eyman, whose operation is already on the streets collecting signatures to reinstate the two-thirds requirement to pass any tax increase, will try to add eight more initiatives to the November ballot.

Gregoire said she told Democrats who voted for the tax increases and the underlying budget to "be proud about iit, do not be defensive" when they return home to voters, and promised to  campaign for them in the fall. But it's too soon to predict how voters will react, she said.

"What happens in November is very dependent on what happens to the national economy as well as the state economy," she said.

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.