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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Advisory votes, cost on the rise

OLYMPIA – Washington voters will be asked in November what they think about five tax increases.

What legislators do with that knowledge is pretty much up to them, because the taxes are already law, and the election won’t change that. 

Voters will be asked if they think the state should keep or repeal tax increases on phone services, estates from certain family trusts, stand-alone dental insurance, some public property assessments, and commuter airlines, which all passed this year.

The advisory votes are required by Initiative 960, which voters approved in 2007.

Last year, there were two advisory measures on tax increases legislators passed in 2012. By significant margins, voters said both should be repealed, but no proposal to do that ever came up for a vote in the Legislature.

Explanations for last year’s measures added about eight pages to the voter pamphlet, which cost about $100,000, the Secretary of State’s Office said. Using the same layout, this year’s measures would add about 20 pages and $240,000. But Tami Davis, voter education and outreach manager, is looking for a way to cut pages and costs.

Tim Eyman, sponsor of I-960 and last year’s I-1185, which reiterated the advisory vote requirement, said that whatever the cost may be, it will be “chump change” compared to the taxes those five new laws will collect. Voters deserve a chance to weigh in, he said.

Even though the Legislature didn’t repeal last year’s taxes like voters advised, Eyman contends the results had a “lobbying effect” on legislators as they worked on the budget. If voters say all five should be repealed, legislators may be reluctant to pass new taxes in 2014, he said.

The additional ballot items aren’t likely to increase the election costs in Spokane County, Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said. Barring an unexpected increase in local ballot measures, everything should fit on the standard 14-inch ballot, he said.