63% of voters want local supermajority for taxes protections

June 18, 2014

Based on the results of a May 2014 statewide poll, Washingtonians' support for taxpayer protections has not waned since they approved I-1185 in 2012. You may recall that approval of I-1185 was the fifth time that voters had adopted a supermajority vote for tax increases requirement. It passed statewide with a 64 percent “yes” vote and with majority approval in 44 of the state’s 49 legislative districts and in every county of the state. This policy received more votes statewide than either President Obama or Governor Inslee.

While efforts continue to amend the constitution to respond to the Court's removal of this popular policy, we wondered what voters thought about bringing this taxpayer protection to the local level. Voters in Spokane, Yakima and Pierce County have already demonstrated the support for this policy at the local level. According to a May 2014 poll conducted for WPC by Alison Peters Consulting, 63% of Washingtonians statewide also want this policy at the local level.

Voters were asked:

Would you support or oppose a local measure in your community that would make it more difficult for your city or county council to raise taxes, specifically by requiring a minimum of two-thirds vote from the city or county council or voter approval before new taxes are passed? Is that definitely (support/oppose) or probably (support/oppose)?

Definitely support - 42%
Probably support - 21%
Probably oppose -10%
Definitely oppose - 21%
Don’t know - 6%

The combined 63% “Definitely” and “Probably” support expressed for bringing a supermajority vote restriction to the local level is nearly identical to the actual 64 percent statewide vote for Initiative 1185 in 2012, showing the popularity of this type of taxpayer protection has not waned.

Voters were also asked:

In your city, what is generally more important to you: Keeping local taxes low or increasing local government spending on community projects and priorities? Do you feel this way strongly or somewhat? 

Keeping local taxes low, strongly - 43%
Keeping local taxes low, somewhat - 15%
Increasing local government spending, somewhat - 14%
Increasing local government spending, strongly -19%
Don't know - 9%

The sample universe for the May 2014 poll was 750 likely voters and included party breakdown of: 32% Democrat, 35% Independent, 27% Republican and 6% other. 48% were men and 52% were women. The margin of error was +/- 3%.

Reasonable tax limitation remains popular and a majority of Washingtonians want greater taxpayer protections to be instituted at the local level. Voters in Spokane, Yakima and Pierce County have already demonstrated the support for this policy at the local level. It is important to remember that supermajority vote requirements do not make increasing taxes impossible as demonstrated by Spokane raising its property tax; it simply requires lawmakers to reach greater consensus before raising the financial burden they place on citizens.

In the absence of consensus on the council, lawmakers could always allow voters to approve tax increases directly with a simple majority vote. As shown by the consistent support for this policy at both the local and state level, taxpayers expect reasonable limits, like a supermajority vote requirement for tax increases, to protect them from narrow, controversial votes being used to raise taxes without broad public support.

Additional Information
Enacting Local Supermajority Vote Requirements to Increase Taxes: A Guide for Washington Cities and Counties