Government Bytes


In Washington: Fiscal Limits Headline Statewide Ballot, New Taxes Dominate Local Measures

by Brandon Arnold / /

Washington voters will have many opportunities to speak directly to public officials on taxes and debt this fall when they decide on ballot issues like the state’s debt limit, passing a two-thirds requirement for future tax increases, and the dozens of local tax and bond proposals. The National Taxpayers Union’s (NTU’s) 2012 Ballot Guide: The Taxpayer’s Perspective can help citizens sort through these measures before deciding the fate of millions (and potentially billions) of dollars.

With proposals to reduce the state’s debt limit and pass taxpayer protection for the fifth time, Washingtonians can make a strong statement about the fiscal direction in which they expect their state to travel.

The Fifth Time Is the Charm?

Once again, Washington voters will decide on a ballot measure that requires either two-thirds of the voters or legislature in order to raise taxes. Washingtonians already passed similar initiatives in 1993, 1998, 2007 and 2010, but these have encountered issues with courts.

Should Washington Reduce its Debt Load?

Voters in Washington will also face Senate Joint Resolution 8221, which would reduce Washington’s constitutional debt limit. This amendment would adhere to the recommendations of the Commission on State Debt that would lower the debt ceiling  from 9 percent to 8 percent by 2034, thereby reducing the debt burden on taxpayers. According to the Washington Policy Center, a pro-taxpayer group with offices in Olympia and Seattle, the state’s debt burden currently ranks in the top 10 nationally. This has created a situation in which the state spends almost $2 billion servicing its debt for each two-year operating budget.

Local Measures Put Millions of Taxpayer Dollars in the Hands of Voters.

From Adams County to Yakima County, Washington voters will weigh in on dozens of proposed property tax increases and bond measures at the county and municipal levels.

  • Seattle voters will consider a proposal to authorize the City to issue $290 million in new debt and impose a new property tax to pay for improvements to the Alaskan Way seawall.

  • Endicott voters will confront a measure that would hike property taxes by $7,000 to raise money for parks.  

Whether major statewide initiatives or local tax issues, these policies could have a significant impact on family budgets. Given the economic conditions in the state, voters should pay careful attention to these measures.

Visit our 2012 Ballot Guide page HERE to find your state’s complete slate of propositions, questions, amendments and more.