Progressives Debate Sales Tax

By Erica C. Barnett December 6, 2011

In an attempt to address a $1.5 billion state revenue shortfall and add funding to the state's reserve funds, Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed an all-cuts budget that would eliminate $2 billion in health, human services, public safety and education programs.

In conjunction with that draconian proposal, Gregoire has also proposed a half-cent sales tax that, she says, will enable the state to "buy back" about $500 million in programs and services, while providing a rebate to married couples with children. That rebate, known as the Working Families Tax Credit, is aimed at addressing concerns from progressive legislators and groups that the sales tax is regressive---that is, that it disproportionately impacts the poor.

In this week's ThinkTank, Lori Pfingst, senior policy analyst with the progressive Washington State Budget and Policy Center, argues that an even larger sales tax---a full cent, offset by a rebate for low-income workers---would eliminate the need for the worst budget cuts.

Dorli Rainey, an activist and onetime mayoral candidate who made national headlines when police pepper-sprayed her at an Occupy Seattle demonstration earlier this year, says state leaders should reject the regressive sales tax and unite to pass a statewide income tax on wealthy Washingtonians.
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