Seniors give their two cents on half-cent sales tax increase

Here is a guest post from demographics reporter Paris Achen, who, among other topics, covers senior citizen issues:

While Gov. Chris Gregoire faces a steep challenge in passing her proposal for a temporary half-cent sales tax increase, she likely can rely on the support of the state’s seniors.

About 79 percent of Washington state AARP members who joined Gregoire on a teleconference town hall meeting Friday said they would support the three-year tax boost to help offset a $2 billion state revenue shortfall.

Ten percent said, “No, thanks,” and another 11 percent said they’re not sure.

The response by the some 17,000 AARP members in the teleconference isn’t surprising. Part of the $494 million in revenue that would be raised from the tax increase would avert some major cuts services for seniors.

Without the tax hike, an estimated 1,630 elderly and people with disabilities would lose long-term care benefits. That includes about 250 people who would be forced to move out of adult family homes, assisted living centers and boarding homes.

Those are the most dramatic on a list of proposed cuts that would impact seniors.

About 66 percent of respondents Friday said they were concerned the cuts would affect them or someone they know.

“I couldn’t stomach those cuts to seniors,” Gregoire said to her telephone listeners.

“Then, why the hell, excuse me, why don’t we go to a penny?” asked a spunky listener from Wenatchee named Evelyn.

Gregoire responded that she would be lucky to convince lawmakers to send even a half-cent sales tax increase to voters. Garnering voter approval also would be feat given the slow economic recovery, she said.

“I think there’s a large amount of people who will say no to new revenue,” Gregoire said.

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