Now that Nov. 7 General Election ballots are in the mail and have been received by most local voters, several constituents have contacted me asking, “What are those 'advisory votes' on my ballot?”
I wanted to take this opportunity to explain an advisory vote and the three advisory vote issues that appear on this year's ballot. This explanation is provided to expressly help voters understand these issues. Please note it is not provided as an expression for or against the ballot measures. RCW 42.52.180 states “No state officer or state employee may use or authorize the use of facilities of an agency, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of a person to an office or for the promotion of or opposition to a ballot proposition.” As your state legislator, I am prohibited from using state resources to advocate for or against a ballot proposition.
First, what is an advisory vote?
In November 2007, Washington voters approved Initiative 960. This measure requires an advisory vote of the people whenever the Legislature raises taxes (or repeals tax breaks, causing an increase in a tax rate) without referring the measure to the people.
Advisory votes let voters say whether they think the Legislature should repeal the new tax rate or maintain the tax increases passed during the legislative session. It is important to note that advisory votes are non-binding. They simply advise how voters feel about the measure.
Statewide, on the 2017 General Election ballot, there are three advisory measures that ask voters whether the following tax increases passed by the Legislature should be repealed or maintained:
House Bill 1597 is meant to streamline wholesale fish dealing, buying and selling, and increased commercial fishing license fees. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, the bill increases the enhanced food fish excise tax (otherwise known as “landing tax”) from 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent for Chinook, Coho and Chum salmon on ocean waters, the Columbia River, Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. It also includes anadromous game fish, which are fish that swim upriver from the ocean to spawn. The new revenue from the increase will be deposited into the state's Wildlife Account. The measure passed the House 92-2 (4 excused) and the Senate 46-3.
Advisory Vote #16 asks voters to mark whether the tax increase should be repealed or maintained.
Advisory Vote #17 on the ballot seeks voters' opinions on implementation of House Bill 2163. This bill was one of the primary packages used to increase revenue for passage of the 2017-19 state operating budget. The measure went into effect July 7, but has varying effective dates for individual provisions.
Under House Bill 2163, the bottled water sales and use tax exemption is eliminated (meaning consumers in Washington must now pay sales taxes on bottled water.) The measure narrows the tax exemption for extracted fuel, provides the ability to apply a business and occupation (B&O) tax on out-of-state retailers, and requires the payment of sales tax on online purchases (even those out of state.) In addition, it eliminates streamlined sales and use tax mitigation payments to local governments. It's estimated this will be a tax increase of about $565,000,000 over 10 years.
Advisory Vote #17 asks voters if this tax increase should be repealed or maintained.
Finally, Advisory Vote #18 asks voters to weigh in on House Bill 2242. This is the so-called “McCleary Solution” bill, which, among other things, implements local levy reform as a way to put more of the responsibility of K-12 school funding on the state for basic educational needs.
House Bill 2242 revises state allocations for school district employee salaries, enhances state funding under the prototypical school model, increases the state property tax, and establishes a new levy formula for school district maintenance and operations levies. Based on the new changes, some taxpayers will see a decrease in their property taxes, while others may see an increase.
The bill is intended to address the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision on K-12 education funding. It also creates a new health benefits purchasing program for school employees.
The measure passed the House 67-26 (5 excused) and the Senate 32-17. The change is estimated to cost just above $12.9 billion over 10 years.
Advisory Vote #18 asks voters whether the tax increase should be repealed or maintained.
Again, while these advisory votes are non-binding, they are an important way to let your elected lawmakers know how you feel about these tax increase measures. I hope this information is helpful and educational as you go through your ballot.
I also encourage you to read both the local and state voters' guides. Visit the Clark County Auditor's Election page online here: https://www.clark.wa.gov/elections/candidates. You can download the state's 2017 Voters Pamphlet from the Secretary of State's website here: https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/research/2017-Voters-Pamphlet.aspx.
Most importantly, I encourage you to vote.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"