We’re going to be awash in tax advisory measures this fall

There will be 12 on the ballot. There would be none had Democratic lawmakers passed one bill.

Initiative activist Tim Eyman holds a T-shirt promoting his initiative that would limit pay raises for elected officials, on Feb. 22 in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

Initiative activist Tim Eyman holds a T-shirt promoting his initiative that would limit pay raises for elected officials, on Feb. 22 in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

OLYMPIA — If you lost count of how many new and higher taxes state lawmakers passed this year, it was 12.

And voters will get a chance this fall to offer their opinions on every one, though what they say won’t change anything.

Yep, it’s time once again to talk about tax advisory measures which are so numerous this year that they will consume most of the front side of general election ballots in Washington.

If you recall, these are nonbinding on legislators. They’re showing up due to a provision in Initiative 960 dreamed up by Tim Eyman, and approved by voters in 2007.

It said if lawmakers enact a tax increase without putting it to a vote then the electorate gets to offer its opinion after the fact. They do so by checking a box to repeal or maintain the increase. With this year’s dozen, voters will have weighed in on 31 tax increases since 2012.

“It’s a tax increase report card and the Legislature this year gets an ‘F’,” Eyman said.

We wouldn’t be talking about advisory votes and providing Eyman a platform for politicial ministering had Democratic lawmakers gotten rid of them by passing Senate Bill 5224.

Democrats are in the majority in both chambers. They did in the Senate but not the House. That’s because Speaker Frank Chopp of Seattle kept his foot on the bill. He’s no longer the speaker and lawmakers in both chambers want to pass it in the 2020 session.

Andrew Villeneuve, founder of the Northwest Progressive Institute and an architect of the legislation, thinks 12 measures on one ballot will annoy folks enough to produce a different outcome.

“I think it helps with our momentum,” he said.

The ballot isn’t the only impact of these measures. By law, the Secretary of State’s Office must provide a smidgen of information on each tax in the voter pamphlets mailed out ahead of the election.

That content will amount to a bill number, a descriptive phrase of the tax penned by a legal mind in the Office of the Attorney General, a guesstimate of how much money will be generated from the increase in the coming 10 years and how each lawmaker voted on the legislation.

Voters will not learn who will be affected, how the money will be spent or when it will take effect. They must do a bit of sleuthing to get any of that information.

“We don’t call them advisory votes. We call them push polls,” Villeneuve said. “Taxpayers are paying for Tim Eyman to have anti-tax communication on the ballot. He thinks people will be upset with legislators. I think people will be mad that these things are on the ballot.”

Now, about those taxes. They tap into wages of workers, pockets of property owners and profits of Big Oil, Big Banks and Big Tech. Travel agents, lawyers, and accountants are hit, vaping products are targeted and Oregon residents are now supposed to pay sales tax when they shop in this state.

A few specifics:

Advisory Vote 24, one of the most celebrated increases among Democrats since no Republican voted for it, applies to the tax rate paid by those corporations and professional services. It’ll raise about $400 million for higher education in this budget and nearly $2.3 billion in the coming decade. For this budget, about half the money is for financial aid as the state pledges to pay the entire cost of tuition and fees for students of very low-income families.

Advisory Vote 29 concerns the conversion of the real estate excise tax from a flat rate to a graduated rate. Starting Jan. 1, owners of less expensive properties will pay a little lower rate when they sell than owners of more expensive properties. It will generate $245 million in this budget to keep the wheels of government spinning, an estimated $1.75 billion over 10 years.

And Advisory Vote 20 is for an increase that won’t take effect until 2022. That’s when workers will see a new deduction from their paychecks that will fund a first-in-the-nation benefit program providing folks with money to offset some costs of long-term care. For a person who makes $50,000 a year the deduction will add up to about $290 a year. Budget officials think this will bring in about a billion dollars a year.

Critics note putting 12 advisory measures in front of voters isn’t a free exercise.

In previous elections, each measure soaked up two pages in the voter pamphlet and the cost per page ranged between $12,000 and $15,000 depending on what else was in the pamphlet.

Final figures for this year won’t be known until September. If they’re in line with the past, these measures will require 24 pages at a cost of up to a half-million taxpayer dollars.

To those looking to blame him, Eyman notes: “I didn’t raise your taxes, they did.”

“They” mostly being Democrats who could have avoided this civic conversation by passing one more bill.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Letter
Oak Harbor legal staff quits over ‘compromised’ relationships

The city attorney and the senior assistant city attorney, who is also the public records officer, both resigned.

Work on the light rail trackway will require over two weeks of overnight closures of 236th Street SW near I-5 in Mountlake Terrace. (Sound Transit)
Overnight closures set for 236th Street in Mountlake Terrace

The closure just east of I-5 means a detour for drivers to reach the interstate until Oct. 14.

The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office released this image of a possible suspect in a homicide at a gas station at 148th Street SW and Highway 99 near Lynnwood. (Snohomish County Sheriff's Office) 20210926
Detectives investigate homicide at gas station near Lynnwood

One person was killed and a suspect was at large, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office said.

Zach Graham stands in front of a newly restored Three Fingers Lookout. (Friends of Three Fingers Lookout)
Volunteers give makeover to precarious Three Fingers Lookout

Up high, with cliffs on all sides, the 90-year-old hut got much-needed new windows, shutters and paint.

Arlington son, 19, charged with slaying his father

Nicholi Melum had been yelling at his son, Garner, when he was killed.

Marysville man shot in hand during apparent drug robbery

At least two suspects were being sought, and police are seeking surveillance video.

The city of Everett is pursuing changing its municipal code's language to replace gender-specific pronouns with gender neutral words. Instead of his/her the code would use the specific position or title, such as police officer or public works director. (City of Everett)
Everett considers gender-neutral terms for municipal code

References to “he” or “she” could change to title-specific words such as “firefighter” or “police officer.”

Michealob Johnson (left), 25, is accused of killing Jae An at the Food Mart in the 6900 block of Broadway in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Trial begins for man who admitted killing a mini-mart clerk

Michealob Johnson is accused of aggravated first-degree murder in the 2019 stabbing death in Everett.

Shots fired Monday afternoon at grocery store in Clearview

There was a large police presence at a Safeway off Highway 99 after gunshots were reported.

Most Read