By Jerry Cornfield
State election officials reversed course today and said they will not publish the full text of two new tax laws on which the opinion of voters will be gauged this fall.
The change of direction reflects the learning curve state officials are traveling on as they prepare to conduct the first-ever advisory votes on tax measures approved by lawmakers and the governor.
Voters, as a result of a five-year-old initiative, will get the chance to say whether they would maintain or repeal the laws which eliminate a tax break for large banks and extend an existing fuel tax paid by oil refiners and gasoline sellers. As the votes are advisory, they won’t alter anything and are not binding on next year’s Legislature.
Election officials initially said they would reprint the full text of the laws – a total of 48 pages – in the statewide voter’s pamphlet. They estimated the verbiage could fill both sides of eight sheets of paper adding an estimated $240,000 cost to the election.
Concern about cost and a calculation most voters probably wouldn’t read the bills led to a decision today to not run the text. Rather they’ll direct voters to where they can find the material online.
Tim Eyman of Mukilteo, whose Initiative 960 created the requirement for the advisory votes, sent a letter to Secretary of State Sam Reed last week in which he threatened to sue if Reed tried to print all 48 pages. He said the initiative does not call for running the text.
Dave Ammons, Reed’s spokesman, said Eyman’s position did not influence the election officials.
“We appreciate his letter. We also felt if we wanted to, we could have,” Ammons said.
The voter’s guide will include a short description of each tax as prepared by the Attorney General’s Office and a projection of the fiscal impact of the law for the next 10 years calculated by the Office of Financial Management. Also, the voter guide will list how each lawmaker voted and how each of them can be contacted.
This alone will take both sides of four sheets of paper – commonly known as eight pages – at a rough cost of $120,000.
The Secretary of State’s Office is concerned voters won’t clearly understand what sets the measures apart from citizen initiatives and a referendum also on the ballot. Their solution is to add languages making clear the measures are nonbinding and the results will not change the law.