OLYMPIA, Wash. - It looks like I-1098 will make it onto the November
ballot in Washington. Petitions turned in on Thursday to the Secretary
of State's office contain an estimated 360,000 signatures, well over the
It's the initiative for an income tax on the state's highest earners.
Such a tax would affect less than three percent of Washingtonians, those
who make more than $200,000 a year, with the money going specifically
to fund education and health care. Opponents point out that taxing
people in this income bracket could mean they'll decide to leave the
state, but Bill Gates, Sr. disagrees.
"Well, we've had experience with that sort of thing. The public here in
this state did that wonderful thing of approving and keeping in place
our estate tax - and I don't think the border crossings increased one
At the same time, the initiative would cut property taxes for most home
and business owners, and exempt about 80 percent of companies from the
Business and Occupation Tax they now pay. That's good news for Jon
Deleeuw, who owns a card and gift shop in Seattle's Wallingford
neighborhood, although he expects some larger companies to put up a
"There's going to be a lot of opposition. They're going to cloak and
disguise themselves, but they're essentially going to be big business -
trying to say, 'Oh, we speak for all the businesses and this is going to
hurt all of the businesses here.' I don't believe that at all. Small
businesses will benefit from this tremendously."
If the measure passes in November, it would be the first-ever income tax
in Washington. Some are concerned that it could eventually be expanded
to include more people, but Gates says there are protections in place to
"The element of it which I think many people would take comfort from is
the fact that, if anybody wanted to change the brackets or the rates or
that sort of thing, there's going to be another vote of the people
before that would happen."
Opponents also say income of wealthy individuals is often from
investments, which are volatile and won't guarantee the state enough
money from the new tax. Backers of I-1098 estimate it will raise about
$1 billion of new revenue for the state. The budget hole is closer to $3
billion, but they say it's a start.