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WA Senate votes to ax tax advisory votes

Screenshot Washington Secretary of State's website
This tax advisory measure was decided by Washington voters during the 2022 general election.

The votes are mandated by a citizen initiative approved in 2007.

Washington law says anytime the legislature imposes a tax without a public vote that the people will be asked at the next election whether they approve.

The state Senate voted this week to do away with that. It voted 30-to-18 to eliminate the non-binding advisory votes that are mandated by a 2007 initiative.

Forty times since then voters have been asked to express an opinion on tax hikes, including twice last year and three times in 2021.

The bill’s sponsor, Seattle Democrat Patty Kuderer, says the measures are often confusing and a waste of the voters’ time.

“Everything on the ballot should have meaning. Advisory votes violate that principle. They are the epitome in what I have termed before as government waste, fraud and abuse. They waste millions of taxpayer dollars in overhead for election officials answering questions about what they are, what they mean and do they even count," she said.

She proposes to create a state-run website that would provide better information about state budgets and spending, including tax hikes approved by the legislature.

Opponents, all Republicans, including Shelly Short from Stevens County, say the advisory votes allow voters to express their opinions about fiscal matters they weren’t asked about before.

“I think it’s incumbent that we have a transparent process that our voters understand exactly how we have voted on these fiscal matters," she said.

“I interact more with my constituents because of this," he said. "They go down the list, see how I voted, how my House members voted and they said, ‘Why?’ And we talk about it, Madame President. Why I voted for. Why I voted against. Perhaps industry asked to be taxed. We have a relationship with the voters because of this we would not otherwise have had.”

The bill now moves to the state House of Representatives.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.