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WA Lege Day 50: House Dems probably won’t call for sales tax hike

OLYMPIA -- House Democrats have not yet released a budget, but early word is that it doesn't call for an increase in a sales tax. More likely, it's a menu of smaller taxes to get to the target in extra revenue.

This comes from a well placed source...Gov. Chris Gregoire.

At a press conference this morning to discuss the prospects of drought (extremely high, because of El Nino) Gregoire said she say the House Democrats long-awaited tax plan over the weekend. She wouldn't steal their thunder by saying what's in it, but she said she likes it better than the Senate Democrats' current proposal.

To be fair, though, she likes the Senate Democrats' spending plan better than the House Democrats, so if the two can just get together, they could pass a budget, she could sign it, the Lege could go home on time...and taxes would go up.

Gregoire said the House plan will have a range of smaller taxes similar to her "menu" approach. Whether it includes the same fresh sheet as her restaurant has -- bottled water, candy and gum, soda, gasoline by way of a jump in the toxics tax -- is unknown yet. But she continued to argue against an increase in the sales tax, which Senate Democrat have in their plan, saying it would hurt the recovery, particularly the construction industry.

And the drought? Go inside the blog for details on that.

Gregoire said the snow pack is low in most parts of the state, (54 percent of normal in the Spokane area, Click here to see a state snowpack map) and while Washington isn't in a drought yet, it could get there quickly with a dry spring and a hot summer, which often comes follow El Nino winters. Which, as anyone who watched the Olympics' skiiing and snow boarding events  knows, is what played havoc on the slopes of British Columbia.

One problem for the state is that they have transferred money out of the drought reserve fund for other budget "droughts", so there's not much left. She's recommending the Legislature move $4 million into drought reserves from a separate disaster emergency fund.

And if we have a drought and a disaster this year?

"Then everybody comes back to Olympia and we have a special session," she said.

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