Washington State Voters: No to Candy and Income Tax

The defeat of taxes on candy and income, plus approval of a supermajority needed for future take hikes, removes a "path forward" for policymakers.
by | November 4, 2010
 

The margins remained wide for tax-related citizen initiatives in Washington state after the second major release of vote counts late Wednesday afternoon. By a two-to-one majority, state voters turned back the tax man three times on Tuesday night.

The so-called candy tax, which also covered gum, soda and bottled water, was reversed with the approval of Initiative 1107 by 62 percent of voters. Despite opposition to the roll back effort by industry groups derisively referred to as "Big Soda," the tax will be remembered as one of the shortest lived revenue sources in state history. Introduced earlier this year by a legislature desperate to close a yawning budget shortfall, it came into effect in June and now will be off the books by the time the legislature reconvenes.

All of this will come as a relief to Pierson Clair, an old school confectionary man who lobbied against the candy tax earlier this year and who we met in the July 2010 issue of Governing.

Bill Gates Sr., the father of the Microsoft founder, was on the losing side of Initiative 1098, which would have introduced a state income tax on high income earners. Gates had long-championed a state income tax since serving as chair of Blue Ribbon panel on tax alternatives almost a decade ago. The initiative failed by a 65-35 margin, despite an aggressive advertising campaign that included a "Soak the Rich" TV spot that featured Gates falling into the business end of dunk tank. He was also featured in a fawning interview on CBS 60 Minutes last Sunday.

Finally, anti-tax activist Tim Eyman successfully championed I-1053, which reinstated a requirement for a two-thirds supermajority vote of the legislature to pass any new taxes.

Faced with the news that the tax measures had been rejected on election night, Gov. Christine Gregoire told Seattle NBC affiliate KING-TV, "I don't have a path forward to be honest with you."

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