Jan 22, 2024 - Politics

GOP initiatives target Washington's capital gains tax, cap-and-trade

Illustration of an undo symbol over a red background with ballot elements.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Conservatives are pushing several ballot measures to try to roll back laws recently passed in Washington state, including the new carbon pricing law and capital gains tax.

Why it matters: If the efforts to repeal those two laws pass, it would mean billions of dollars less revenue for the state in the coming years.

  • That would upend majority Democrats' plans to invest more in clean energy projects, transit and child care programs, among other priorities.

Plus: The initiatives — among six backed by the state GOP — could drive up turnout among conservative voters in November, benefiting Republican candidates up and down the ballot in left-leaning Washington.

Catch up quick: Three of the measures have recently been certified by the secretary of state's office, meaning they gathered enough signatures to appear on the November ballot.

Another three ballot measures may still qualify and are going through signature verification now.

  • That includes the initiative to repeal the capital gains tax, I-2109, which is likely to be certified by the secretary of state's office early this week.
  • The other two proposed initiatives would let people opt out of the state's long-term care insurance program and block state and local governments from enacting personal income taxes.

Between the lines: The ballot measures head to the state Legislature first, and will appear on the November ballot only if state lawmakers choose not to pass them.

  • Lawmakers could also approve an amended version of each initiative that would appear on the November ballot alongside the original.

State of play: So far, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate haven't shown much interest in taking up the Republican measures.

  • Last week, House Majority Leader Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Seattle) told reporters that Democrats are "focused on communicating the benefits" of the cap-and-trade system that I-2117 aims to repeal, such as "making sure Washingtonians have clean air."
  • Fitzgibbon also called it "really good news" that the U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to take up a challenge to the capital gains tax, allowing the tax to help pay for schools and child care programs.

What they're saying: State Rep. Jim Walsh, who chairs the state Republican Party, said in a recent news release that the carbon pricing law has caused higher gas prices that have hurt Washingtonians.

  • Meanwhile, the ballot measure to loosen restrictions on police vehicle chases, I-2113, is necessary to curb rising crime, said Walsh, the citizen sponsor of all six GOP-backed initiatives.
  • "We need to restore our law enforcement officers' ability to fight crime effectively. That starts with being able to chase criminals and criminal suspects," Walsh said in a recent press release.

What we're watching: How much money goes into supporting and opposing the ballot measures headed into November, and whether the final remaining initiatives qualify for the ballot.

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