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WA voters will face two first-ever tax advisory measures

by David Ammons | July 31st, 2012

Washington voters will get a first-ever chance to give their non-binding opinion on a pair of revenue bills passed by the Legislature this year and signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire in May.

According to Solicitor General Maureen Hart, voter-approved Initiative 960 triggers advisory votes on provisions of House Bill 2590, extending the petroleum tax that pays for the pollution liability insurance trust account, and Senate Bill 6635, an omnibus bill dealing with tax preferences, including a provision removing a special tax treatment for certain large banks. During debate, the banking provision was described as an $18 million boost to the state treasury. Both bills were deemed tax increases.

The non-binding tax advisory votes are the first to be conducted under terms of Tim Eyman’s I-960. That measure, adopted in a 2007 statewide vote by a 51-49 tally, is best known for requiring a two-thirds vote to approve taxes in Olympia. A lesser known provision requires the public advisory vote on such actions.  After seeing the results of the advisory vote this November, the Legislature can revisit the issue, or let their original votes stand.

Both 2012 measures passed handily. In the case of HB2590, the vote was almost unanimous – 40-0 in the Senate and 93-1 in the House.  For SB6635, the vote was lopsided, more than a two-thirds vote in each chamber: Senate, 35-10; House 74-24.  Gov. Gregoire signed both bills on May 2.

Shane Hamlin, state elections co-director, said the two measures will be assigned ballot numbers and the Attorney General will prepare brief descriptions of each.  That information will be in the state Voters’ Guide and the ballots.

Voters also will be asked to decide six other ballot propositions:
•    Referendum 74, to affirm or reject the new legislation permitting civil marriage for same-sex couples.
•    I-1240, authorizing up to 40 charter schools to form in Washington over the next five years.
•    I-1185, a plan by Tim Eyman to re-impose the previously approved requirement for a supermajority two-thirds vote in both houses of the Legislature for boosting taxes without a vote of the people. This concept has been adopted four times previously, but the Constitutional allows the Legislature to amend, suspend or abolish initiatives after two years have passed.
•    Initiative to the Legislature 502, decriminalizing marijuana for those 18 and older.
•    Two noncontroversial constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by lawmakers. SJR 8221 deals with stricter limits on use of bond debt for state projects. SJR 8223 deals with investments by the University of Washington and Washington State University.

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