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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Olympia

Here’s the sales tax bill…

House Democrats have put together a bill to boost the state sales tax by 3/10 of 1 percent.

It begins:

An unprecedented shortfall in state general fund revenues has threatened the state's ability to fund vital health services and has harmed working families. For this reason, the legislature is asking the voters to approve temporary tax increases in order to fund health care and to support working families during this time of revenue shortfalls.

The bill would only take effect if approved by voters in November.

It would set up a new "health care trust account" in the state treasury. Most of the money raised from the increase in sales tax would go into that fund to pay for the state's health coverage for poor families, public health services, health care, mental health care, hospitals and nursing homes.

A little less than a quarter of the money (21.6 percent) would be used to pay for a tax exemption for low income families. The refunds are patterned on the federal Earned income Tax Credit program. The program would pay out $32 million in its first year and $73 million the second, or more if needed to meet the payments.

The extra sales tax would be temporary, expiring Dec. 31, 2012.

Where the money would go (over 2 years):

-$167 million to the Basic Health Plan, coverage for low-income families,
-$77 million for long-term care and nursing homes
-$75 million for hospitals
-$24 million for mental health care for children
-$19 million for the Healthy Options health care program
-$3 million to go to local health agencies for "core public health functions of statewide significance"

The tax increase -- if approved by voters -- would take effect Dec. 15th.

Short takes and breaking news from the Washington Legislature and the state capital.