Opinions about taxes will be aired in Olympia

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Dueling rallies over taxes will be held Monday in Olympia as the Legislature moves toward critical decisions on how to balance what has now become a $2.8 billion budget deficit.

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, is calling on opponents of tax increases to show up in force at the anti-tax rally, from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Capitol.

In an “urgent alert” sent to constituents Thursday, he wrote, “While you are hard at work trying to make ends meet, the majority party is working hard to increase your taxes.”

The Senate voted last week to suspend Initiative 960, a voter-approved initiative that requires a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber to raise taxes. The House Finance Committee voted 6-3 on Saturday to approve the measure, which could be on the House floor in the next few days.

Gov. Chris Gregoire backs the suspension of I-960 so lawmakers can raise revenue to avoid an all-cuts budget.

Meanwhile, the Rebuilding Our Economic Future Coalition, representing at least 115 education, health care, social services and environmental organizations, will rally in support of new revenue to avoid further cuts to services.

That rally will be at noon Monday on the Capitol steps.

Among revenue measures Democrats have introduced are: closure of several tax loopholes; tripling of a hazardous-materials tax paid mainly by oil refineries and pesticide manufacturers; a cigarette tax increase; and taxes on candy, bottled water and other products.

On Thursday, House Democrats introduced a bill to raise the state sales tax by 1 percentage point temporarily to help the state weather its economic downturn and support critical services. The current state sales tax rate is 6.5 percent. In Clark County, local sales taxes bring the total rate to between 7.7 percent and 8.4 percent.

House Bill 3183 would then phase out the increase, and eliminate it altogether once the unemployment rate drops to 5 percent for four continuous months. The state’s current unemployment rate is 9.5 percent.

State Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, is a co-sponsor of HB 3183.

Kathie Durbin: 360-735-4523 or kathie.durbin@columbian.com.