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Originally published Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Rossi: $15B road plan may have to wait

Republican Dino Rossi acknowledged Wednesday he'd likely have to delay work on some of his major campaign promises — including a ...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Republican Dino Rossi acknowledged Wednesday he'd likely have to delay work on some of his major campaign promises — including a $15 billion road-building plan and tax cuts — if elected governor, because of the state's projected $3.2 billion budget shortfall.

"The first thing we have to do is right the ship financially," Rossi said in an interview.

Rossi said he has not abandoned his promises and would work to fund whatever portions of his agenda he could each year.

Still, the comments mark somewhat of a shift for Rossi, who had been criticized by Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire repeatedly for making his tax-cut and roads promises, which she estimated would grow the size of the projected budget hole to $4.5 billion.

Rossi's acknowledgment that he might not be able to pursue some of his plans immediately drew more attacks from Gregoire.

"He's already broken campaign promises before the election," she said during a news conference on health-care issues at a Seattle medical clinic.

Rossi blamed Gregoire for the budget shortfall because she grew the size of state government by $8 billion.

"She has created a very large mess here, which looks like it might be getting bigger," he said.

He said the state's projected shortfall over the next two years has only grown since he first proposed his $15 billion roads plan this spring. The proposal relies heavily on taxes that now go to the state general fund to pay for education and other services.

Rossi said taxes he'd like to cut include the state's business and occupation tax (B&O), which taxes gross business receipts, and the tax on the estates of the state's wealthiest families.

He said he will try to phase in B&O tax relief, starting with small businesses.

The inheritance tax, enacted by Gregoire and Democrats in the Legislature in 2005, could prove more difficult. The tax, which applies only to the wealthiest one-half of one percent of families, brings in $100 million a year, earmarked for education.

Voters overwhelmingly defeated an initiative to repeal the tax in 2006.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or jbrunner@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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