Looking for simple explanations for the rest of your ballot? Check out my Voter’s Guide here.
There you are, making your way through your ballot, and you come across something weird. Substitute Senate Bill 5444? The description doesn’t help and scanning down, you see a whole slew of these: Senate Bill 5627, Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1846, Second Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1971, Engrossed House Bill 2075. What do they mean?
These “Advisory Votes” are the result of a procedural change forced by a Tim Eyman initiative a few years back. Whenever the state legislature wants to increase tax revenues, whether it is a minor tweak or a major change, they need to put it to a vote of the people. That is what we are discussing here – changes to our tax code. The legislature (including our Democratic House and our Republican Senate) passed all these measures and now we get the opportunity to “maintain” their decision or “repeal” it.
After reviewing them all, my recommendation is to “maintain” all of them. They are not major changes and they are mostly just closing tax loopholes that were being abused. Below is a more detailed examination:
Substitute Senate Bill 5444: This bill closes a tax exemption for people who rent publicly owned property. Right now, there are several private companies that rent land from ports, cities, counties and the state. These people were getting a tax write-off for choosing to rent from the government rather than the private sector. Removing this incentive levels the playing field for private property companies and returns some revenue to the state coffers. It had broad bipartisan support and is a pretty common sense fix. Vote maintained.
Senate Bill 5627: This is one of those housekeeping measures the legislature would normally handle without any trouble, but now you have to vote on it. In the past, we taxed air carriers through a property tax measure, but since the amount of property required for air carriers varies greatly, it was not an effective tool. They are shifting to an excise tax to make it more consistent. Vote maintained.
Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1846: This bill allows insurance companies in Washington state to offer dental coverage for children. Because it involves how we spend the Insurance Premium tax, we need to vote on it . . . but seriously, dental coverage for children! Vote maintained.
Second Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1971: This is another housekeeping measure having to do with phones. As most of our phone legislation, including tax legislation, was written in the 1990s – it was long past time for an update. This measure added the 911 tax to prepaid cellphones and standardized many of the regulations across different devices. Common sense. Vote maintained.
Engrossed House Bill 2075: This was the final patch to balance the state budget this year – it clarifies how the estate tax is supposed to be applied (there were a few legal issues with previous interpretations) and makes sure it covers certain types of property transfers. It is not an expansion and the money goes to education. Vote maintained.
That’s it for the confusing material on the ballot. I’ll be rolling out my endorsements on Saturday so stay tuned for the rest of the ballot.
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