Senate Democrats Differ From Gregoire, Not Counting on Federal Money

By Josh Cohen January 16, 2010

Unlike Gov. Chris Gregoire, the Senate Democrats aren't holding their breath for any federal dollars to help Washington out of its budget crisis.

Speaking to reporters in a weekly briefing session late last week, Senate Majority Leader, Spokane Sen. Lisa Brown (D-3) said her caucus doesn't want to rely on a one-time influx of money from the feds to fix the budget. They instead are focusing their efforts on making cuts first then raising revenue. Federal money is seen as as a bonus.

"We're not going to budget based on assumptions," said Jeff Reading, the Senate Democrats Communications Director. "Any federal money is just gravy that will be used for one time programs or possibly a safety buffer."

The Senate plan differs slightly from Governor Chris Gregoire's proposition. She too is focusing on cuts and revenue, but seems more confident that the federal money is coming.

"The governor is planning a mixture of painful cuts and new revenue," said Viet Shelton, Gov. Gregoire's deputy communications officer. "Whether that revenue is federal money or taxes is to be determined."

Shelton said that Gov. Gregoire is, however, anticipating a large amount of federal money.

Sen. Brown went into to a few details of the revenue plan. She supports adding a sales tax to candy and gum as Seattle Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36) has proposed. She also supports a sin tax that would raise taxes on tobacco products. Revenue from the candy tax would fund dental and medical care at community health clinics. The tobacco revenue would be split between the state general fund, education legacy trust fund, and the tobacco prevention and control account.

Sen. Brown seemed confident that people would see those taxes as reasonable. "I think the people will feel good about paying a little more if the benefit is to education and law enforcement," she said.

The senator was less confident about a bill that we're tracking,  Snohomish Rep. Hans Dunshee's (D-44) green schools bond measure. Sen. Brown worries that the timing is wrong to go outside the debt limit for bonds.

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