OLYMPIA — Legislators have until Dec. 28 to find ways to close the projected $1.4 billion budget gap, and maybe ask voters to raise the state sales tax to save some programs.
Some legislators of both parties have expressed doubt that they can do it in the time allotted, and the fact the regular 2012 session follows the special session by about two weeks has them suggesting some things may just have to wait.
This kind of talk does not sit well with Gov. Chris Gregoire, who called them back for this emergency session with the idea of getting the messy budget stuff out of the way as soon as possible, so savings can start accruing. If the Legislature doesn't agree by the end of the month to put a half-cent sales tax before voters, it can't go on the March ballot.
“I've heard a lot of skepticism from legislators on whether they can get the job done. I'm not willing to accept that,” she said Thursday. “Is there job tough? Absolutely. It's the reality we face today.”
She also took shots at some proposals to increase state revenue without raising the sales tax, as she has suggested, or other taxes. One of them is to expand casino gambling off the reservations. “Voters said, not all that long ago, 'No,'” she said.
Another one, particularly popular with protesters who continue to march in and around the Capitol, is an end to a tax exemption banks have on first mortgages. That might raise $18 million, which doesn't close much of the budget gap, she said. Closing any tax loophole will take a two-thirds majority in the Legislature and “that just isn't going to happen,” she said.