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At the ballot box, taxpayers say repeal new taxes

Dave Sullivan places his ballot in a ballot box outside of the downtown Spokane Library on Monday, Nov. 7, 2016. Voters have used their ballots to call for a repeal of taxes passed earlier this year, but the legislature is not legally bound to do so. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Dave Sullivan places his ballot in a ballot box outside of the downtown Spokane Library on Monday, Nov. 7, 2016. Voters have used their ballots to call for a repeal of taxes passed earlier this year, but the legislature is not legally bound to do so. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Washington voters have some advice for legislators about taxes that were passed early this year: Get rid of them.

But history has a lesson for voters: The Legislature probably won’t.

A strong majority of voters on all three Tax Advisory votes at the top of the statewide ballot called for a repeal of the taxes, which range from an increase for fish caught and sold by commercial fisherman to bundles of taxes approved to help pay for improvements to the state’s school system. Those include levying a sales tax on bottled water, collecting taxes from out-of-state internet sales and out-of-state businesses with sales in Washington, and a major shift in property tax levies from local school district to the state.

Voters statewide chose “repeal” over “maintain” by between 57 percent and 65 percent on the three measures. A majority of Spokane County voters called for all three measures to be repealed.

But the ballot measures, required by an initiative passed by voters 10 years ago, are strictly advisory, so the Legislature is not bound by them. In the past, lawmakers haven’t changed a tax based on the results of an advisory measure.

The results could be brought up if the Legislature considers changes to the tax system that is tied to public school reform.


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