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Inslee won’t rule out tax hikes

Governor-elect urges reshuffled tax breaks

Gov.-elect Jay Inslee holds a press conference and talks about taxes, guns, pot and schools. (Jim Camden)
Gov.-elect Jay Inslee holds a press conference and talks about taxes, guns, pot and schools. (Jim Camden)

OLYMPIA – The Legislature should consider a wide range of options in a search to increase gun safety and reduce the threat of violence, Gov.-elect Jay Inslee said Thursday.

“There is no panacea, no one solution,” Inslee said at a news conference during a preview of the upcoming legislative session sponsored by the Associated Press. “But that’s not a reason for inaction.”

On other topics, Inslee – who takes the oath of office Wednesday – repeated campaign promises to try closing the state’s budget gap through government efficiencies and an improved economy but without new taxes. He called for a thorough review of plans to increase coal train traffic in the state and said immediate changes to the new state law legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use were unlikely.

In the U.S. House, Inslee voted for a ban on semi-automatic, military-style rifles in 1994; he said he continues to support efforts to limit access to those weapons but doesn’t know if any will have traction in the Legislature. Along with what he called “gun safety” aspects should be efforts to improve mental health care, he said.

On taxes, Inslee wouldn’t rule out an increase in the gasoline tax as part of a package to pay for transportation projects, but said that tax would provide less money as fuel efficiency continues to improve. For the general operating budget, which is separate from transportation, he called for ending some tax preferences or “loopholes” for business but creating others, like tax credits for research and development or for small businesses to hire new workers.

He remains opposed to proposals to change the way property taxes are split between the state and local school districts, sometimes called the “levy swap,” as a way to satisfy a state Supreme Court mandate to improve education. The state may need to spend an extra $1 billion on public schools in the next two years, but he can’t predict where it would get that money.

“I don’t have a solution at this moment,” he said.

Asked if he anticipated any changes in the law allowing adults to use marijuana, Inslee said the two-thirds majority needed to change an initiative in the first two years after an election is a high barrier. But he’s willing to listen to suggestions, including one that some tax revenue from marijuana production and sales could be set aside for education.

“I’m not saying that is something we should not consider,” he said, particularly if legalized marijuana generates significant tax revenue, as some have predicted.

On a question about new coal terminals on the West Coast, Inslee said he wanted to look beyond the local impacts in the port communities to a “full, fair evaluation of the effect of coal trains on the state of Washington.”

That would include environmental effects as well as the possible loss of jobs in small towns “bisected” by increased train traffic, he said.

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