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Initiative information

Early election results are in, and voters so far have approved both statewide initiatives.

Initiative 1366: State taxes and fees

I-1366 decreases the state retail sales tax rate on April 15, 2016, from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent. The sales tax rate will not be decreased if, by April 15, 2016, two-thirds of the state House and Senate both agree to refer a constitutional amendment to a vote of the people requiring two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval to raise taxes and a majority of the Legislature to approve fee increases.

As the state’s Office of Financial Management (OFM) notes, I-1366 “presents the Legislature with a choice that leads to two possible and mutually exclusive scenarios.”

The first choice is that the Legislature does not refer a constitutional amendment to the voters. This seems a likely scenario as getting two-thirds approval of the Legislature will prove to be very challenging. In this scenario, the initiative calls for a 1 percent, or one cent on every dollar of retail sales, decrease to the state sales tax. OFM estimates this 1 percent decrease will result in a loss greater than $8 billion to the state’s general fund over the next six years.

The initiative does not seek to decrease any of the local sales tax rates, and OFM estimates that local governments could see an increase of $226 million over six years if the state sales tax decreases. This is due to price elasticity: a decrease in the state sales tax may increase retail sales, which would result in an increase to local sales and B&O taxes.

The second choice is that two-thirds of the Legislature agree to send a constitutional amendment to the voters. Should voters approve the amendment, it will make it very difficult for the Legislature to raise taxes in the future.

Either of these scenarios makes it much more difficult for the Legislature to comply with the Supreme Court’s order to fund basic education by 2018. This may put programs and revenues that cities rely on at greater risk.

However, a third scenario is also a likely possibility. Opponents of I-1366 are expected to ask the courts to intervene and halt implementation of the initiative. This summer, opponents sued to keep the initiative off the November ballot. A King County Superior Court judge ruled that the initiative was likely an illegal attempt at a constitutional amendment that exceeds the power of initiative, but the legal standard was not met to prevent it from being on the ballot. On appeal, the state Supreme Court ruled that I-1366 should be allowed to go for a vote of the people but did not rule on its constitutionality.

More information about the initiative can be found in the below links.

Full initiative text

OFM’s fiscal impact statement

DOR’s fiscal impact statement

Yes on 1366

No on 1366

Initiative 1401: Trafficking of animals threatened with extinction

I-1401 prohibits the sale, purchase, trading, or distribution of elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, lion, leopard, cheetah, pangolin, marine turtle, shark, or ray species listed as endangered or vulnerable in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list, including items made from listed species. Violations would be a gross misdemeanor or class-C felony. It exempts certain distributions, including musical instruments and transfers for educational purposes.

OFM’s fiscal impact statement shows minimal impact to local governments. Cities could experience increased court and jail costs for additional gross misdemeanor cases. The Administrative Office of the Courts estimates fewer than 400 additional gross misdemeanor cases statewide each year.

More information about the initiative can be found in the below links.

Full initiative text

OFM’s fiscal impact statement

Yes on 1401

No on 1401

AWC’s role

AWC does not take positions for or against any ballot initiative. AWC’s role is to provide its members with educational materials that can be shared with elected officials, staff and the community. In addition, please review the PDC’s guidelines for elected and appointed officials' participation in ballot proposition activity.