Photo by Steve Shay
Gov. Gregoire visited a South Seattle Community College class room today and promoted her half-cent state sales tax increase for three years to avoid school cuts. She stopped for a photo holding an 1826 half penny coin for the West Seattle Herald. West Seattle Coins' Daniel Hoolahan lent us the coin from his collection for the photo.

UPDATE 2: Gov. Gregoire visits SSCC; Pushes half-cent sales tax increase for education

First state sales tax increase in nearly 30 years

UPDATE: Tuesday, 6:45 p.m.

Gov. Chris Gregoire visited the campus of South Seattle Community College on Tuesday, Nov. 22nd, to speak directly to students, drawn from four classes, about her proposed cuts to education, and what her revenue package would restore. Her plan is to raise state sales tax by one-half penny.

She told the class:

"I have been traveling the state visiting students from middle schools, high schools, and community colleges but haven't visited a school in Seattle (until now). Come Monday we start the special session. I hope they get done in December. I can't tell you how many countless hours I have put in over the last couple of months let alone the last three years in digesting a state budget as complex as ours under the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression(...)

"There are only four places in state government where money can be cut."

She asked the audience of students what they are, and the students quickly responded correctly.

She continued, "Higher education, social services, corrections and public safety, and healthcare. You sit here at this school and say, 'Why would they cut higher education?' What percent of our entire education do we spend on our entire state budget? Fifty percent. In a recession, to me, the last place you go to cut is education. We are over enrolled in every school because people are laid off, getting retrained. Our graduation rates are up. In one way it's a good thing, but they stay in school because they can't find jobs (...)

"Why would you think Congress's failure, they get an F-minus as far as I'm concerned, why did that hit us like a ton of bricks in August (when they couldn't balance the budget)? We are reliant on sales tax. Consumer confidence went down, (causing) an immediate and dramatic impact. They are doing that to us again, but I think we're a bit more resilient now.

"Aerospace is booming, high tech, agriculture and exports are booming, global health, life sciences, energy, those are all sectors in our state that are really growing(...) Small business is struggling. It immediately relies on consumer confidence. It got hit dramatically. Now we're waiting to see what happens in Europe. If defaults in Italy and others trigger a banking crisis in Europe, it will trigger a banking crisis in America. If that would just stabilize we have indicators that say we could recover. It will be slow and it will be long but we could recover(...)

"I don't think we can continue to cut our most vulnerable (...) who get services in their home because if they don't, they end up in a nursing home which costs us so much more, let alone the human toil it takes. I've looked at 185 different revenue options. This idea of "plug the tax loop holes" sounds really good. Come sit with me hour after hour and painstakingly go through everyone of them and realize there is an argument not to cut in every single one of them.

"When was the last time the state raised the sales tax? Nobody here is old enough. 1983 is the last time (...) It was one point one penny.

"In 1997 we paid $65 for $1,000 of personal income. Now, $45."

The governor said that local and federal taxes might be up, but not the state. And she said no one but the state is picking up the slack.

"Hopefully in March or April we ask (with a vote) that you make the call. Want to keep education? Want to keep public safety? Want to not turn our backs on the most vulnerable? That will cost half a penny."

In a "Message from the Governor" about her plan, released Nov. 21 she states, "I propose more than $2 billion in spending cuts, reductions to local revenue sharing and fund transfers to leave a $600 million reserve."

She writes," The Great Recession — which has lingered longer and resulted in more job losses than any downturn since the Great Depression — has taken an almost unprecedented toll on our economy and on state revenue collections."

The Governor has identified $2 billion in preliminary cuts and is looking at revenue opportunities, meaning taxes, "worth $59 million (...) and a "dozen additional revenue alternatives, worth $282 million."

She's proposing a one-half cent sales tax increase, temporarily, to preserve services to people with developmental disabilities and those who need long term care, prevent further reductions to kindergarten through 12th grade and higher education systems and ensure that offenders are kept behind bars or under community supervision.

You can download and read her entire message at the link above.

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