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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Legislature asking voters for advice on tax rate changes

From Staff Reports

Washington voters are asked their “advice” this fall on decisions the Legislature made this spring to change tax rates for marijuana and for some tribal lands.

But the Legislature isn’t obliged to heed the results of Advisory Votes 8 and 9, and, if history holds, won’t even revisit the issues if voters say they should be repealed.

The advisory votes are required by an earlier initiative designed to make it more difficult for the Legislature to raise taxes. Most parts of that initiative, such as a two-thirds majority for tax increases, were struck down by the courts, but the advisory ballot provisions remain and often confuse voters because the law limits the amount of information that can be included in state-sponsored voter guides. Unlike ballot initiatives, advisory votes have no statements supporting or opposing them. Like ballot initiatives, the numbers of the advisory vote titles continue to go up rather than being reset to “1” each year.

No. 8 involves the Legislature’s decision that the state’s new legal marijuana growers can’t have some of the tax preferences that most other agricultural businesses have. Requiring them to pay a mixture of business and occupation, sales, utility and litter taxes will bring the state an estimated $25 million over the next 10 years. The bill passed 47-0 in the Senate and 55-42 in the House.

No. 9 involves taxes for some property owned by federally recognized Indian tribes. Like state and local governments, the tribes are exempt from property taxes, but under House Bill 1287, some lease-hold property can be subject to an excise tax. That change in tax law will bring the state an estimated $1.3 million over the next 10 years. The bill passed 37-12 in the Senate and 61-37 in the House.

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