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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

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

Update, as Olympia lurches toward the end of the legislative session…

-House and Senate budget writers seem close to a deal, and are shooting to release the final version Wednesday. 

"We're really coming along. We're exchanging paper. We're getting close," said Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton.

-Taxes: A House committee is slated to vote tomorrow on a proposed 3/10-of-a-cent sales tax increase for the next three years. The move would raise about $1.1 billion to help ease budget cuts for hospitals, nursing homes and other health care services.

But lawmakers seem mighty lukewarm on the sales tax plan, and very cool indeed toward a proposed income tax on high earners. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown insists that the income tax plan isn't dead ("Nothing's dead 'til we're out of here," she said this afternoon), but it seems increasingly unlikely.

Even the sales tax proposal, which proponents note would cost 3 cents on a $10 puchase, seems like it's facing an uphill fight in the statehouse. Some lawmakers say the public hasn't yet realized how substantial the budget cuts are going to be, and the lack of an ensuing public outcry has hurt the impetus to raise revenue and ease such cuts. Many of the cuts won't take effect until the new fiscal year: July 1. ( Both the sales- and income tax plans would have to be approved by voters in November.)

Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, said he's opposed to the income tax plan, saying it's not the right time to launch a comprehensive overhaul of the state's tax system. And he's not convinced that lawmakers will back the sales tax plan.

"The impacts will be so staggered and disparate that I think it will take time for the public to feel that impact," he said.

But they will, he said.

"This goes beyond rattling the local Department of Licensing office door and finding it closed," said Marr. "This will be actually stepping over people sleeping on the sidewalk to get to that door."

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