State looks at changes to how ballot initiatives are presented to voters

Feb 7, 2022, 11:21 AM | Updated: 1:34 pm
I-976, car tabs fees eyman, ballot initiatives...
Tim Eyman advertising for $30 car tabs. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A bill moving through the state Legislature could lead to changes in how Washington presents future ballot initiatives to voters.

Washington weighs significant changes to how (and when) it votes in 2022

In practice, HB 1876 — sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Mia Gregerson — would make it so any ballot initiative that would impact taxes, fees, or “cause a net change in state revenue” would include language that tells voters what exact effect the measure would have.

That would have the description on the ballot, described in HB 1876 as a “disclosure,” appear in a format emphasizing the direct impact of the initiative, detailing how it would increase or decrease funding for specific services.

“The people are entitled to know the fiscal impact that their vote will have on public investments at the time they cast their ballots,” the bill reads. “The legislature further finds that when a ballot measure will affect funding for public investments, a neutral, nonprejudicial disclosure of the public investments affected will provide greater transparency and necessary information for voters.”

Among those who have spoken out against the bill is anti-tax activist Tim Eyman, who claims that it would insert a “biased description” into initiatives “with no judicial oversight.”

Latest ballot initiative from Tim Eyman misses deadline for 2022 ballot

Eyman’s most recent initiative on the ballot — I-976 — had sought to reduce Washington’s car tabs to a flat $30 rate. Although it was eventually struck down by a judge, the state would have seen significant across-the-board cuts to its transportation budget had it gone into effect. Sound Transit estimated that it would have lost nearly $7 billion in revenue between 2021 and 2041, while the state’s Office of Financial Management warned that the initiative would have slashed $1.9 billion in state revenue over six years, as well as $2.3 billion for local governments.

HB 1876 was passed out of the state House’s Government & Tribal Relations committee in late January on party lines, and will next need to progress out of the Rules Committee in order to continue advancing.

The state could also see further changes to its initiative process if a separate bill from Rep. Gregerson that would move all major elections to even years continues to progress as well. That bill would apply to a vast majority of state, county, city, town, and district general elections, with a few exceptions. Those exceptions include votes on levies and tax increases, special elections to fill unexpired terms for departing members of Congress, and recalls.

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State looks at changes to how ballot initiatives are presented to voters