Initiative that would outlaw state income taxes certified, ballot may be next

Jan 24, 2024, 3:52 PM

Image: A portion of the 1040 U.S. individual income tax return form is shown....

A portion of the 1040 U.S. individual income tax return form is shown. (File photo: Mark Lennihan, AP)

(File photo: Mark Lennihan, AP)

An initiative to outlaw income taxes at the state, county and city level could be headed to the ballot on November after it was certified Wednesday.

Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs’ office confirmed in a news release Wednesday that “it delivered official notification to the (legislature) that signature verification has been completed and certified for Initiative 2111 (I-2111).

As The Center Square explained, the initiative would reinstate a 1984 state law banning local governments from enacting a tax on net income. That law was later overturned in a 2019 Court of Appeals decision related to a Seattle income tax ordinance, which was also struck down, the outlet added.

Currently an income tax is legal in the state of Washington, but it must be a flat rate tax.

The newswire, which covers statehouse and statewide news across the U.S., noted proponents of a progressive income tax have sought to get the Washington Supreme Court to overrule prior rulings previously. That came after a number of failed efforts to amend the constitution.

I-2111 is another initiative that was backed by “Let’s Go Washington,” a conservative political action committee (PAC).

“The enthusiasm of everyday citizens to sign an initiative preventing a potential income tax was heartwarming,” Brian Heywood, founder of Let’s Go Washington, said in a statement Wednesday. He added that “state voters have already rejected an income tax at the ballot box 10 times.”

I-2109: Initiative to repeal capital gains tax certified

“We’re going to put a stake in the heart of this never-ending greedy money grab by Olympia,” Heyward explained. “No more sneaky workarounds at the city or county level and no more dishonest attempts to give an income tax a different name. I-2111 will make the will of the voters crystal clear, once and for all – no income taxes. Period.”

Next up for I-2111: Legislators have options to consider

I-2111 will now go to the Washington State Legislature for consideration. It has the option to pass it or propose its own version. If lawmakers don’t take action, it will appear on the general election ballot in November.

Lawmakers can choose to pass the initiative as written, with no changes. If they do, it will become law more quickly than if it went to the November ballot. If lawmakers decline to pass it or take no action on it, then the initiative will almost certainly be put before voters in November.

The legislature also has the option to create their own alternative measure which would then appear on the ballot alongside I-2111.

More from Kate StoneWash. voters sound off on biggest priorities for new legislative session

The Let’s Go Washington initiatives

The Secretary of State’s Office also confirmed Wednesday that the signatures on the remaining pending initiative petition is being verified by its elections division using a state-mandated process of examining a 3% random sample of submitted signatures.

In addition to I-2111, the secretary of state’s office has also certified four other initiatives Let’s Go Washington backed: I-2109 (“Repeal the capital gains tax”), I-2081 (“Parents have a right to know”), I-2113 (“Reasonable police pursuit”) and I-2117 (“Stop the hidden gas tax”). The PAC is also firmly behind  I-2124 (“Opt out of state-run long-term care coverage act”).

After I-2113 got certified recently, Democratic House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said she is disappointed the six initiatives are being pushed through by people like Heywood, who is a hedge fund manager and a major Republican donor. Jinkins called him “an ultra-wealthy multimillionaire, buying his way onto the ballot and putting initiatives on the ballot that are going to benefit his ultra-wealthy status.”

More state politics news: Initiative to repeal police pursuit restrictions certified

But her colleagues, including House Minority Leader Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, pointed out the initiatives all appear to have received more than 400,000 voter signatures, though some are still awaiting official certification.

“A very small number of (these voters) have any meaningful financial gain, they just want to do what they think is best for the people of Washington,” Stokesbary said previously. “They want more choices and feel like they’re dissatisfied with some of the policies that have come out of Olympia.”

Contributing: Kate Stone, KIRO Newsradio 

Steve Coogan is the lead editor of My Northwest. You can read more of his stories here. Follow Steve on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email him here.

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Initiative that would outlaw state income taxes certified, ballot may be next