Washington Leasehold Excise Tax Credit Elimination Question, Advisory Vote 3 (2013)

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Leasehold Excise Tax Credit Elimination Question
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Type:Advisory question
Referred by:Washington Legislature
Topic:Taxes
Status:Defeated Defeatedd
The Washington Leasehold Excise Tax Credit Elimination Question, Advisory Vote 3 was on the November 5, 2013 statewide ballot in Washington as an advisory question.[1] It was defeated.

The measure asked voters if they approved the legislature's elimination of a leasehold excise tax credit for taxpayers who lease publicly-owned property. The credit's elimination by Senate Bill 5444 was estimated to generate $2,000,000 in government revenue.[1]

At the time of the November 2013 election, publicly owned properties were not subject to property taxes in Washington. In place of a property tax, individuals who lease publicly owned property paid a leasehold excise tax. If the leasehold excise tax was greater than the property tax would have been, taxpayers were allowed a credit on the leasehold tax equivalent to the difference before the passage of SB 5444.[2]

Election results

Below are the official election results. Washington is a mail-in ballot state and does not have polling places. All ballots postmarked November 5 were counted. Results were certified on November 26, 2013 by the Secretary of State. A yes vote supported the repeal of the legislature’s elimination of a leasehold excise tax. A no vote supported maintaining the legislature’s elimination of a leasehold excise tax.

Advisory Vote 3
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No813,99052.47%
Yes 737,365 47.53%
These results are from the Washington Office of the Secretary of State.

Background

See also: Initiative 960

A provision of a 2007 ballot measure, Initiative 960, directly led to the placement of this advisory vote on the ballot. Under that approved measure, a statewide advisory vote is required on all tax increases passed by the state legislature. Initiative 960 was sponsored by Tim Eyman and originally required a two-thirds supermajority in the legislature or a legally binding vote of the people to approve any tax increases or eliminations of tax credits. Though the supermajority requirement was struck down by the Washington Supreme Court in 2013, the advisory vote clause was left intact.[3]

Text of measure

The official ballot text read as follows:[1]

The legislature eliminated, without a vote of the people, a leasehold excise tax credit for taxpayers who lease publicly-owned property, costing approximately $2,000,000 in the first ten years, for government spending.

This tax increase should be:

[ ] Repealed

[ ] Maintained[4]

Comments on Initiative 960

Because of its automatic and nonbinding nature, most commentary about this advisory question revolved around the issue of whether or not such votes are necessary.

Support

As the sponsor of Initiative 960, Tim Eyman repeatedly stated his belief that the automatic advisory questions on taxes were a benefit to the Washington public. In an interview with the Olympian, Eyman argued the advisory questions kept legislators in check. He said, "If you know you’re going to get caught doing something bad, the less likely you will do something bad. It forces legislators to be thinking, this November my constituents will know how I voted on this bill."[3]

Opposition

According David Ammons, spokesman for the Washington secretary of state's office, placing the five advisory questions on the 2013 ballot was expected to cost taxpayers about $240,000. Some said this cost was too high for ballot measures that effectively have no impact whether voters approve them or not.[3]

Andrew Villeneuve, of the Northwest Progressive Institute, argued that the advisory votes were too much of a burden on the state's elections budget. In a response to Eyman's comments to the Olympian, Villeneuve said, "Tim Eyman's comments today again show that his real objective is weakening and destroying government, not making it function more efficiently. Our Constitution provides for three kinds of statewide ballot measures: initiatives, referenda, and constitutional amendments. The Constitution does not authorize advisory votes. Consequently, I-960's advisory vote scheme is unconstitutional in addition to being wasteful. It was purposely engineered to clutter up our ballots and give Eyman more fodder for emails to reporters."[3]

Path to the ballot

The measure was sent to the ballot via the aforementioned 2007 ballot measure.

See also

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