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Six ballot measures set the tone in 2024 for Washington

Hundreds of thousands of voters helped shape the just concluded 2024 Legislative Session and the upcoming November general election in Washington by qualifying six ballot measures. A citizen group called “Let’s Go Washington” is behind the successful effort to qualify these ballot measures to the legislature:

  • I-2081: Establishing the parents’ bill of rights (ADOPTED);

  • I-2109: Repealing the state’s new capital gains income tax (NOT ACTED ON);

  • I-2111: Banning state or local income taxes (ADOPTED);

  • I-2113: Restoring the authority for law enforcement to engage in vehicle pursuits (ADOPTED);

  • I-2117: Repealing the environmental cap and trade gas taxes (NOT ACTED ON); and

  • I-2124: Allowing more Washingtonians to opt-out of the state’s long-term care tax (NOT ACTED ON).  

Under Washington’s constitution, there are three possible options with ballot measures submitted to the legislature: 


  1. The legislature can vote to enact without change (this can’t be vetoed by the Governor); 

  2. The legislature can do nothing in which case the proposal is placed on the November ballot; or 

  3. The legislature can propose an alternative in which case the alternative and original proposal are both placed on the November ballot.

The Washington Legislature (eventually) held public hearings and voted to approve three of the ballot measures:


 

Mountain States Policy Center received an invitation from lawmakers to testify on the state and local income tax ban (I-2111). We told lawmakers before the proposal was adopted:

"I-2111 would implement the clear and consistent intent of Washington voters to stop income taxes from being imposed. Although some believe the state constitution prohibits an income tax, government officials can currently impose up to a 1% tax if uniform. I-2111 would fully close this door and prohibit a state or local income tax of any kind, assuming of course the plain meaning of words is honored (unlike what occurred with the recent capital gains income tax).

 

For years, the state Department of Commerce advertised the lack of an income tax as being a ‘competitive advantage’ for Washington. To further protect this advantage, along with acting on I-2111, lawmakers should also take the next step and adopt this policy as a constitutional amendment. This is something that Texas and Tennessee recently did to signal to residents and businesses that an income tax is fully off the table. With Washington voters rejecting 10 straight ballot measures to impose an income tax and now qualifying I-2111, it is time for state officials to finally prohibit income taxes."

The legislative supermajority vote in favor of I-2111 indicates there should be enough support to forward voters a constitutional amendment to make sure future games don’t occur on income taxes in Washington. That is of course, if the lawmakers voting for I-2111 truly don’t have plans to propose future income taxes.  

The legislative approval of these ballot measures attracted national attention. The Wall Street Journal wrote on March 7:

“Washington state lawmakers pulled off a hat trick Monday, approving three initiatives that push back the progressive policy tide in the state. The new laws will ban a state income tax, make it easier for police to chase suspects, and enshrine a bill of rights for parents whose children attend public school . . .

The initiatives are half of a slate of six that were initiated by citizens who gathered signatures and had the measures certified by the secretary of state in January. Under Washington state rules, when a voter initiative is approved by the Legislature, it is enacted without requiring approval from the Governor. The remaining three, including efforts to repeal the capital-gains tax and end cap-and-trade climate regulation, will go before voters in November.”

Despite the fact the state constitution clearly says that ballot measures to the legislature “shall take precedence over all other measures in the legislature except appropriation bills,” no public hearing or vote was held on these proposals:

  • I-2109: Repealing the state’s new capital gains income tax. Note - Washington is the only state that refers to a capital gains income tax as an ‘excise tax.'

  • I-2117: Repealing the environmental cap and trade gas taxes. Note - According to the Washington Policy Center, "The average tax on CO2 in 2023 ended up at $54.74 per metric ton, which equates to about 43 cents per gallon of gasoline and 53 cents per gallon for diesel."

  • I-2124: Allowing more Washingtonians to opt-out of the state’s long-term care tax. Note - Most Washington workers are currently required to pay 0.58% of their wages in taxes under the state’s requirement to have a long-term care policy.

By exercising their right of initiative, Washington voters successfully set the tone for 2024 with three of their proposed ballot measures already being enacted into law. The remaining three proposals will appear on the November general election ballot for state voters to act on directly.

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