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Washington ballot measures: Tax policy

The Spokesman-Review

Washington voters have a near record number of initiatives on this fall’s ballot, giving them choices on raising taxes, paying taxes, buying liquor and providing for workers’ industrial insurance.

Here’s a look at the tax policy ballot measures.

• I-1053: Proposed by Tim Eyman and a host of conservative allies in the opening days of last winter’s legislative session, this proposal seeks to undo what conservatives believed, correctly, the Democrat-controlled Legislature was about to do: Remove the supermajority needed to increase taxes. The two-thirds majority was suspended through mid-2013 and a series of tax increases were passed to help balance the budget; if I-1053 passes, that supermajority again will be needed for any tax increase, at least for two years, while state law makes amending initiatives more difficult.

Supported by: major oil companies, state Restaurant Association, Northwest Grocery Association, state Bankers Association, Association of Washington Business, Farm Bureau, Realtors, soda bottlers.

Opposed by: Service Employees International Union, Teamsters, food and commercial workers union.

Campaign so far: Supporters say a supermajority is clearly what voters want as a check on unbridled legislative spending, because they have passed that restriction three times before. Opponents say the requirement is undemocratic because it allows a minority to block key legislation. After contributing to Eyman’s committee for signature gathering, oil companies and other businesses set up a separate committee for the fall campaign.

• I-1098: Would levy an income tax of 5 percent on individuals who make more than $200,000 a year, or couples who make more than $400,000 that jumps after reaching $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for couples. It would reduce the state portion of your property tax bill by 20 percent and increase credits for the businesss and occupation tax.

Supported by: Service Employees International Union and several of its locals, National Education Association, William Gates Sr., several progressive groups, including Washington, D.C.-based Ballot Initiative Strategy Center.

Opposed by: Many business groups, including the Association of Washington Business, Greater Spokane Incorporated.

Campaign so far: “Yes” campaign has raised $5.3 million and spent $1.3 million; supporters say it’s time to make the state’s regressive tax system fairer and make wealthier residents pay a larger share of the cost of state services; opponents say this would just be the start of an income tax that would eventually be extended to everyone when the Legislature needs more money to balance the state budget. Bill Gates Sr., who helped draft the initiative, appears on television commercials with the suggestion that this is a way to help schoolchildren by “soaking the rich.” The “no” campaign has raised $4.6 million and spent $236,000, with six-figure donations from some of the state’s wealthiest families other than the Gateses.

• I-1107: Would repeal some of the taxes enacted by Democrats in the Legislature last spring as a way to keep the state’s budget in balance. Taxes repealed would be new levies on soda and other carbonated beverages, sales taxes on bottled water and candy, and business taxes on some processed vegetables, fruit and meat.

Supported by: soda producers and bottlers, whose national organization, American Beverage Association, contributed more than 90 percent of money to the “yes” campaign so far. They want to keep soda from becoming an easy target for cash-strapped legislators around the country.

Opposed by: state employees unions, state teachers union, state hospital association, Group Health and Community Health Network.

Campaign so far: “Yes” campaign, which has raised almost $14.5 million and spent $3.5 million, is stressing taxes being placed on “grocery” items, which have long been spared the sales tax in Washington, and a quirk in the law that doesn’t put the tax on some items most people consider candy. “No” campaign has raised about $343,000 and spent $282,000.

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