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Washington Voters to Weigh in on Three Types of Taxes in Nonbinding Advisory Measures

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Joseph O’Sullivan / The Seattle Times

OLYMPIA — On ballots to be counted next week, Washington voters will have a chance to weigh in on three tax-related measures that passed this year’s Legislature, including the new tax on capital gains.

The votes for the election, however, are nonbinding and do nothing to change the policies.

Such is life with Washington’s advisory measures, a legacy from a 2007 ballot measure sponsored by anti-tax activist Tim Eyman.

Eyman has lauded the advisory votes, which he has called a way to let voters know what legislators did during the year. Democrats tend to hate advisory votes and call them a waste of resources.

Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday or placed in county drop boxes by 8 p.m. that day.

Advisory vote No. 37 lets Washingtonians chime in on the new 7% tax of capital gains on the sale of assets — like stocks and bonds — above $250,000. The tax is a long-sought priority for Democrats to shift Washington’s regressive tax system.

The new law — which passed as Senate Bill 5096 — exempts a bunch of assets, like sales of real estate, retirement accounts, livestock, timber, and some agricultural property. It also exempts sales of sole proprietor businesses, with a gross revenue of up to $6 million, and some auto dealerships.

Republicans assail the tax as unneeded and unconstitutional. Lawsuits by opponents have already been filed and consolidated into one case, which could potentially take the new law up to the state Supreme Court to decide its fate.

Advisory vote No. 36 lets Washingtonians weigh in on a tax on telephone lines. That comes as part of House Bill 1477, which implements the national 988 call system for behavioral health crises and suicide prevention response.

Advisory vote No. 38 concerns a tax on captive insurance companies amounting to 2% of premiums from owners and affiliates. That stems from Senate Bill 5315, which passed the Legislature with almost unanimous votes.

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