Washington House passes bill to eliminate advisory votes on tax increases

Apr 10, 2023, 11:07 AM | Updated: 11:14 am

Image: The Washington State Capitol campus in Olympia....

The Washington State Capitol campus in Olympia. (Photo: Getty Images)

(Photo: Getty Images)

Update April 10:

The Washington State House of Representatives passed legislation to remove the state’s requirement for advisory votes on revenue legislation, eliminating the ballot-cluttering remnant of an unconstitutional initiative that cost the state and local governments millions each election cycle.

“Advisory votes are non-binding referendums that do not carry any legal weight. They have no real impact on policymaking. These votes only pollute our ballots with anti-tax propaganda specifically designed to instill distrust in government—and they do it on our most fundamental sanctuary of democracy, the ballot,” Kuderer said.

The bill, previously passed by the Senate in February, now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk for his signature.

Original Feb 9:

The Washington state Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would repeal advisory votes — non-binding votes from the public that are currently required to be held on all tax increases.

The bill, SB 5082, would eliminate these advisory votes if the state House of Representatives passes it.

Bill forcing Washington residents to vote advances from committee

Advisory votes were originally introduced in Initiative 960 in 2007, which required all tax increases to be adopted with a two-thirds vote, required a 10-year cost analysis to be distributed to voters, as well as the advisory vote.

“With this measure, the people intend to protect taxpayers by creating a series of accountability procedures to ensure greater legislative transparency, broader public participation, and wider agreement before state government take more of the people’s money,” the initiative read.

Advisory votes are non-binding and do not eliminate any passed tax increases but rather act as a way to gauge voter opinion, and 75% of advisory votes were rejected by the legislature.

Some opponents are arguing that these advisory votes are clogging up the ballot and promote an ‘anti-tax’ sentiment. Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue) is the bill’s sponsor and released a statement explaining why she thinks that the advisory vote system should be discarded.

“These non-binding, vote-imposters pollute our ballots with anti-tax propaganda specifically designed to instill distrust in government—and they do it on our most fundamental sanctuary of democracy, the ballot. They are fraudulent because they use loaded, misleading language meant to push private interests and to influence rather than measure public opinion. We need real tools for making the Legislature’s work more transparent, not political rhetoric,” said Kuderer.

The legislation was proposed by the Redmond-based nonprofit Northwest Progressive Institute. The bill’s text explains that the goal of the legislation is to remove the advisory votes in order to make the ballot clearer.

The legislature finds that making the act of casting a ballot as simple as possible will help promote the free and equal elections guaranteed by Article I, section 19 and Article VI, section 1 of the Washington state Constitution. The legislature recognizes that transparency and fiscal responsibility are important to the people of Washington, and that election administration and ballot design should reflect these long-held values. The legislature further finds that the people rightfully expect items on their ballots to be neutrally and accurately worded. Finally, the legislature finds for the votes that Washingtonians cast to have meaning, the ballot must be limited to candidate elections that give the people the power to choose their representatives or ballot measures that determine what laws and plan of government the state and its localities shall have.

Seattle food truck, café regulations remain post-pandemic

The bill would instead create a voter website with access to information about operating, capital, and transportation budgets, as well as state spending on both state and local levels. It also asks that a QR code and website address be placed on voters’ pamphlets so voters can easily access the information.

Senate Republicans who argued against the bill claimed the advisory votes are essential to the democratic process and allow voters to voice their opinions on all tax increases which affect them.

“Some who support Senate Bill 5082 claim, without any supporting data, that abolishing advisory votes would encourage more voter participation. Because nothing says ‘your voice matters’ like getting rid of direct democracy?” the state Republican caucus said in a statement. “Democrats think advisory votes are confusing to voters. In truth, they just don’t like what votes have to say.”

MyNorthwest News

sound transit bus crash...

Frank Sumrall

15 passengers injured after Sound Transit bus crashes into building

Fifteen people were injured after a Sound Transit bus crashed into a building Saturday evening at 5th Avenue and Terrace Street in Seattle.

17 minutes ago

Former President Donald Trump sits in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 20, 2024. (...

Bill Kaczaraba

Bellevue man donates $1 million to Trump super PAC

A Bellevue man donated $1 million to a Political Action Committee (PAC) that supports Donald Trump just a day after he became a convicted felon.

21 hours ago

Photo: Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson....

James Lynch

Auburn Officer Jeff Nelson’s fate now in hands of jury

It has been five years since Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson shot and killed 26-year-old Jesse Sarey who was going through a crisis.

22 hours ago

Queen Anne, Uptown, parking...

Bill Kaczaraba

Power company investigating early morning outage to Queen Anne, Magnolia

Seattle City Light wants to know why 10,000 customers lost power in the early morning hours on Saturday.

23 hours ago

Image: A Seattle Police Department vehicle can be seen parked in the city of Seattle....

Bill Kaczaraba

Police search for suspects in West Seattle fatal shooting

In the early hours of Saturday morning, Seattle Police detectives launched an investigation into a fatal shooting in West Seattle.

1 day ago

Photo: Medics respond to a crash in SeaTac on June 21, 2024....

Julia Dallas

1 killed, several others injured in major SeaTac car crash

Five people and two cars were involved in a violent car crash in SeaTac on Friday, the King County Sheriff's Office told KIRO Newsradio.

2 days ago

Washington House passes bill to eliminate advisory votes on tax increases