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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Brown goes online for dialogue on vexing issues

Richard Roesler Staff writer

OLYMPIA – Trying to expand the debate on budget cuts and taxes beyond Olympia, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown has launched an online site for people to ask questions.

Brown, D-Spokane, for months has talked about launching a dialogue with the public on the issues that lawmakers have been wrestling with: what to cut, how deeply, and how the state might get money to avoid deeper cuts.

“This is a tough time for Washington state,” Brown says in a video posted on the site. “But if we all work together, we can find solutions that protect the vulnerable and move our state forward.”

In its first few days, the site has drawn dozens of questions, mostly from Puget Sound-area residents.

Many sought more specifics on a proposed income tax on people earning $250,000 or more. Others called for more money for colleges and K-12 schools, and for not increasing health costs for state workers. Others discussed climate change, medical marijuana and same-sex marriage.

Web site visitors can vote on the questions. The most popular ones will be answered by Brown, who has been speaking directly with voters on her blog, at http://senatedemocrats.wa.gov/senators/brown.

Brown has drawn both praise and flak this session for her openness to the idea of the state income tax on high earners. Lawmakers are also discussing a possible sales tax increase, with the money used to offset cuts to hospitals, nursing homes and health care programs.

The site for questions is at http://senatedemocrats.wa.gov/questions.

Richard Roesler can be reached at (360) 664-2598 or at richr@spokesman.com. For more news from Olympia, go to www.eyeonolympia.com.
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