Following a public hearing on October 20, the Kirkland City Council passed Resolution R-5157 expressing its opposition to Washington State Initiative 1-1366 (I-1366); joining the cities of Seattle and Spokane as Councils opposing the Initiative. City Council members opposing the ballot measure expressed concern about the tax policy that would result from the Initiative passing. The Initiative proposes to drop the state retail tax by one percent unless the State Legislature seeks a constitutional amendment from Washington voters next year requiring a supermajority (two-thirds) legislative approval or voter approval to raise taxes and majority legislative approval for fee increases. To view the staff memo to the City Council regarding R-5157 and to watch meeting video, go towww.kirklandwa.gov, search “Watch Council Meetings,” and select October 20, 2015.
The Washington Office of Finance Management has written that if approved by voters, I-1366 leads the State Legislature to two possible and mutually-exclusive scenarios: Scenario 1) The Legislature does not refer a constitutional amendment to voters prior to April 15, 2016 and on the same day, the state retail sales tax would decrease from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent and Scenario 2) The Legislature seeks a constitutional amendment prior to April 15, 2016 that would appear on the November 2016 general election ballot (and the sales tax rate would remain at 6.5 percent).
Initiative Measure No. 1366 concerns state taxes and fees.
This measure would decrease the sales tax rate unless the legislature refers to voters a constitutional amendment requiring two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval to raise taxes, and legislative approval for fee increases.
Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]
Ballot Measure Summary
This measure would decrease the state retail sales tax rate on April 15, 2016, from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent. The sales tax rate would not be decreased if, by April 15, 2016, two-thirds of both legislative houses refer to the ballot a vote on a constitutional amendment that requires two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval to raise taxes, and majority legislative approval to set the amount of a fee increase.
If the Legislature does not refer a constitutional amendment to voters in 2016, the Washington Office of Financial Management estimates that the state General Fund would decrease $8 billion over the next six years. Cities, such as Kirkland, receive state shared revenues into the general fund from the State’s budget. Kirkland’s 2016 state shared revenue estimate is $5.2 million, $4.6 million of which could be subject to reduction depending on the potential actions taken by the Legislature to make up for lost revenue.
Currently, Washington law charges a sales tax on most retail sales made in the State, which generally applies to goods and services, with a few exceptions. Exceptions include most groceries, over-the-counter and prescription drugs, and newspapers. The state sales tax rate does not include local sales taxes that may be charged by cities, counties, and other taxing districts. Another state law provides that most fees charged by the government are allowed only if they are approved by more than half (majority) of the members of each house of the Legislature. The Washington State Constitution does not allow a bill to become law unless it receives a vote of support by a majority of the members of each house of the Legislature.