Republican Dino Rossi and the state GOP recently put out fliers that say Gov. Christine Gregoire supports a state income tax. Is that claim true?

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This is the first in an occasional series of stories truth-squadding campaign ads, videos and candidate statements.

OLYMPIA — It’s an assertion you’re bound to hear often before the November election: that Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire is in favor of adopting a state income tax.

Is it true?

It all depends on how the claim is framed. Gregoire has suggested she thinks an income tax is a good idea and that one eventually will become reality in Washington. But she also has said repeatedly that now is not the time and she has no intention of pushing for one.

Republican Dino Rossi and the state GOP recently put out fliers that blast Gregoire for sharply increasing state spending since she took office in 2005.

Rossi’s flier, which is being handed out door to door and at campaign events, also states simply that Gregoire “supports state income tax.” The Republican Party flier being mailed to voters goes farther, saying, “Now Gregoire supports enacting a state income tax to fund her out-of-control spending habits.”

While the Rossi flier could be construed as truth, the GOP’s wording is a stretch.

Last month, when a political action committee funded largely by the Building Industry Association of Washington posted a video on its Web site claiming Gregoire supports an income tax, her campaign sent out a news release calling it a “big lie.”

“Gregoire’s position has been clear, she is opposed to a state income tax,” the release said.

But Gregoire hasn’t always put it that bluntly.

The fliers and video are based on remarks Gregoire made last year in an interview with the editorial board of The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane.

When asked in that interview about an income tax, Gregoire said:

“We don’t have an electorate out there that will support it right now. Clearly, when I go across the state, the support’s not there. So much of it is, how are we going to educate them to the regressive tax system that we have in this state and how we need to have some sort of conversion over to a partial income tax. … So now’s not the time….

“But it’s not as if it’s not a good idea. It’s not as if it’s not one that we shouldn’t pursue. It’s one that we just have to keep holding hearings and let time pass and eventually I assume we’re going to get there.”

Washington, one of seven states that does not have an income tax, gets most of its revenue from three sources: retail sales tax, business and occupation tax, and property tax.

Passing a state income tax would require a two-thirds favorable vote of both the state House and Senate for a constitutional amendment, as well as approval from voters.

But an income tax remains politically taboo, and past efforts to move in that direction have fallen flat.

In 2004, King County Executive Ron Sims staked his bid for governor on a broad tax-reform proposal that included a call for a state income tax.

Gregoire, Sims’ opponent in that year’s Democratic primary, called the plan unwise and unrealistic.

“I’m not going to discuss an income tax today when the citizens of the state of Washington are afraid if they’re going to have a job tomorrow, health care tomorrow or education for their family,” Gregoire said at the time.

Gregoire trounced Sims by more than 2 to 1.

Sims’ plan relied heavily on the findings of a 2002 blue-ribbon commission headed by Bill Gates Sr. As with previous studies, the panel concluded that Washington’s tax system was unfair to the poor and bad for business.

While Gregoire and lawmakers have taken up some of the commission’s ideas, such as creating a rainy-day savings account, they have mostly ignored its call for an income tax.

“It isn’t as if this is a new idea and it hasn’t been pursued historically,” Gregoire said in the interview with The Spokesman-Review. “Its time will come, but its time has yet to come. And it’s one of those issues that we have to continue to constantly have a dialogue about.”

Ralph Thomas: rthomas@seattletimes.com