A new law could change how some Washingtonians decide to vote for an initiative that will appear on the November ballot.
The 1876 House Bill requires any state initiative that would repeal levies or change taxes to include an impact disclosure in the title of the ballot. Investments that would be affected by the measure must also be included.
The bill comes into force in June.
Recent polls completed in early April by Public Policy Polling used the vote headline endorsed for the “Repeal Capital Gains Tax” initiative to be released in November:
“The initiative measure n° 1929 concerns taxes. This measure would repeal a 7% excise tax on annual capital gains in excess of $250,000 realized by individuals on the sale/exchange of stocks and certain other fixed assets (the tax exempts real estate and retirement accounts).
A poll of 553 Washington voters using the full title of the ballot showed that only 40% of voters surveyed would vote favorably on Initiative 1929, while 39% would vote no and another 20% were unsure. Seniors and those who identify politically as “independent” were most likely to be opposed.
A second survey included the full title of the ballot along with the financial impact statement now required by the new law:
“This measure would cut funding for education, early learning, childcare and school construction.
The second survey polled 572 voters in Washington and found that adding the financial impact statement made a significant difference to how people said they would vote, with yes votes dropping to 37% , 49% who said they would vote no, and 14 percent said they weren’t sure. All age groups and all political affiliations were more opposed to the measure when adding the impact statement.
Civic Ventures funded the poll and Jack Sorensen, a political consultant who works with the organization, said the survey shows voters don’t want to “cut education funding.”
“Because of this new ballot transparency mechanism that ensures voters know what programs they care about are being funded and how they are being funded by certain initiatives, voters are even more skeptical of this cynical ploy to cut super taxes. rich,” Sorensen told McClatchy. Tuesday.
However, the vote-approved title is already being challenged in court by the political action committee behind I-1929 and by J. Vander Stoep, a lawyer for Chehalis identified only on court documents as a Washington voter.
“The Attorney General’s Proposed Ballot Headline and Ballot Measure Summary also create prejudice against the initiative measure by selecting two exemptions that benefit opponents of the measure,” the appeal said. “The reference to two exemptions in the title of the ballot is misleading because it gives the impression that these two exemptions are the entire universe of credits, deductions and exemptions from this tax.”
The appeal also noted that the labeling of capital gains tax “as an excise tax is of particular concern given that the definition is at issue in ongoing litigation.”
The capital gains tax was passed by the legislature in 2021 amid criticism that the tax is unconstitutional because it is an income tax, which is prohibited in Washington state. The drafters of the legislation knew at the time that the bill would face significant legal battles, but argued that a capital gains tax is an excise tax.
Funding from capital gains tax would go into the state Education Legacy Trust Account. The rest would go to the common school construction account.
In March, a Douglas County Superior Court judge ruled that the capital gains tax was “properly characterized as an income tax” and rejected the state’s argument that the tax is an excise tax. The state has acknowledged that the case will likely have to be resolved by the Washington Supreme Court.
The political consultants behind I-1929 were also involved in the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s I-522 campaign in 2013, where they violated campaign finance laws by not disclosing their initiative’s donors. These violations resulted in the largest campaign finance fines in US history, totaling $18 million. The Washington Supreme Court recently upheld those fines after GMA appealed them in court.
PAC could not be reached for comment.
Wealthy donors have already donated more than $259,000 to the campaign focused on repealing the capital gains tax, with another $420,000 in pledges.
This story was originally published April 13, 2022 12:43 p.m.