When adopting for the third time the state’s supermajority requirement for tax increases in 2007 with the passage of Initiative 960, voters also approved the requirement for a non-binding advisory vote for any tax increase not first sent to the voters for ratification.

This legal requirement means voters should have the opportunity to consider at least one tax increase advisory vote this fall.

As reported by The Everett Herald:

“Washington election officials could soon make an unprecedented addition to this fall’s ballot: a first-ever statewide advisory vote on a tax increase.

A forgotten provision of a 2007 initiative may give voters the chance to weigh in on lawmakers’ decision earlier this year to eliminate a tax break for large banks to help balance the state budget.

Under that old measure, Initiative 960, the vote should be conducted to let voters say whether they agreed with the action of their elected officials. The decision by the voters guarantees nothing: it’s just advice for lawmakers.

Initiative author Tim Eyman has been waiting since 2007 to see this happen.

‘It’s kind of cool that it only took five years for voters to get this right,’ Eyman said.”

Here is RCW 43.135.041 on the requirement for the non-binding advisory tax increase vote:

“(1)(a) After July 1, 2011, if legislative action raising taxes as defined by *RCW 43.135.035 is blocked from a public vote or is not referred to the people by a referendum petition found to be sufficient under RCW 29A.72.250, a measure for an advisory vote of the people is required and shall be placed on the next general election ballot under chapter 1, Laws of 2008.

(b) If legislative action raising taxes enacted after July 1, 2011, involves more than one revenue source, each tax being increased shall be subject to a separate measure for an advisory vote of the people under the requirements of chapter 1, Laws of 2008.

(2) No later than the first of August, the attorney general will send written notice to the secretary of state of any tax increase that is subject to an advisory vote of the people, under the provisions and exceptions provided by chapter 1, Laws of 2008. Within five days of receiving such written notice from the attorney general, the secretary of state will assign a serial number for a measure for an advisory vote of the people and transmit one copy of the measure bearing its serial number to the attorney general as required by RCW 29A.72.040, for any tax increase identified by the attorney general as needing an advisory vote of the people for that year’s general election ballot. Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays are not counted in calculating the time limits in this subsection.

(3) For the purposes of this section, ‘blocked from a public vote’ includes adding an emergency clause to a bill increasing taxes, bonding or contractually obligating taxes, or otherwise preventing a referendum on a bill increasing taxes.

(4) If legislative action raising taxes is referred to the people by the legislature or is included in an initiative to the people found to be sufficient under RCW 29A.72.250, then the tax increase is exempt from an advisory vote of the people under chapter 1, Laws of 2008.”

Here is how we described this process in our 2007 Citizens’ Guide to I-960 (in-part):

“Non-binding advisory votes for tax increases not sent to voters
Section 6 of Initiative 960 requires a non-binding public advisory vote if the legislature does not submit tax increases to the voters for approval through a legislative referendum. The intent section for section 6 says (in-part):

‘If the legislature blocks a citizen referendum through the use of an emergency clause or a citizen referendum on the tax increase is not certified for the next general election ballot, then an advisory vote on the tax increase is required.’

In support of this provision Eyman argues:

‘Governor Gregoire and the legislature have promised that all of their increased spending will not require higher taxes to sustain them. If they’re right, then the ballot won’t be overwhelmed. The overuse/abuse/misuse of the emergency clause by the legislature necessitates increased public disclosure . . . Including the contact information for legislators is intended to prompt a dialogue between the people and their elected representatives.’

. . . Initiative 960 provides the legislature with two options when it comes to tax increases:

  1. Voluntarily send the proposed tax increase to the voters as a referendum for approval, or;
  2. The voters will still have an opportunity to comment on the tax increase through a non-binding advisory vote.”

While there is some debate as to how many tax increases actually occurred this year, at a minimum voters should have the opportunity to comment on the repeal of the B&O Tax Deduction for First Mortgage Interest for various banks from SB 6635.

We’ll know by August 1 which revenue measures the Attorney General’s Office has identified as tax increases triggering the non-binding advisory vote.

Additional Information
Governor signs I-960 bill without vetoing advisory vote repeal

Will Governor veto tax transparency suspension?

Democrats concerned about the “Spirit of I-960”

Senate votes to retain tax advisory votes


[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog; featured photo credit: Snowflakesarewhite]