The Washington Attorney General's Office informed Secretary of State Sam Reed July 30 that two tax measures approved by the 2012 Legislature must go to the November ballot for a public advisory vote. It's the first time for a voter-mandated plebiscite for taxes passed in Olympia.
The two bills cited in a letter from Solicitor General Maureen Hart are provisions in House Bill 2590, dealing with the state 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 triggered by Tim Eyman's Initiative 960, adopted by voters in 2007. That measure, which also requires a two-thirds vote to approve taxes in Olympia, requires taxes approved by the Legislature be submitted to voters for their view. 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. Chris Gregoire signed both bills on May 2.
Shane Hamlin, state elections co-director, said the two measures will be given Tax Advisory Proposition Numbers 1 and 2 and the attorney general will prepare brief descriptions of each. That information will be in the state Voters' Guide and the ballots.
Voters in November will also 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 state constitution allows the Legislature to amend, suspend or abolish initiatives after two years have passed.
• Initiative 502 to the Legislature that decriminalizes marijuana for those 18 and older.
• Two non-controversial 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.
The general election takes place Tuesday, Nov. 6.