The first bill (numbered 1477) concerns funding for the 988 suicide prevention hotline system, the second bill (numbered 5096) concerns our new state capital gains tax on the wealthy, and the third bill concerns levying a tax on captive insurance (numbered 5315).
You are being shown these three "advisory votes" because an individual named Tim Eyman created a scheme many years ago to fill up our ballots with anti-tax propaganda anytime the Legislature acts to increase state revenue.
Eyman doesn't believe in the American tradition of pooling resources to get things done through taxes, whether that's establishing and maintaining parks, libraries, roads, bridges, fire departments, schools, mass transit, hospitals, ports, or even elections... any of the things that our tax dollars pay for. He's a libertarian who fervently believes in dismantling government as much as possible.
So, as often as he can, he proposes laws directly to voters to cut taxes and take a wrecking ball to state and local government.
In Washington, anyone who gathers enough signatures can propose a law and put it in front of their fellow citizens for a vote; it's called an initiative.
Eyman's initiatives are always aimed at making our quality of life worse, but they are deviously written to sound like they can help people when in truth, all they do is cause lots of pain and suffering.
"Advisory votes," on the other hand, are not proposed laws. They concern laws that already exist. Regardless of how you vote on "advisory votes," state law will not be changed. However, by voting Maintained on all "advisory votes," you can help deny Tim Eyman ammunition for future attacks on our elected representatives.
Eyman wants people to vote "Repealed" so that he can argue that the Legislature is out of touch with people.
Again, by voting "Maintained," you're letting Eyman know that in spite of his efforts to poison your and other voters' minds against our elected representatives, you aren't fooled. So please vote "Maintained!"
Here's a little bit more information on each of these three bills:
- Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1477 concerns the 988 suicide prevention hotline system. The hotline is connected to a national network of over one hundred and seventy-five crisis centers that are all linked by a toll-free number. Three Washington State based crisis centers currently participate in the system, and take calls from people who are extremely depressed or in crisis and thinking about taking their life. Trained counselors provide crisis intervention and counseling, summon first responders as appropriate, and provide referrals for follow-up care. The State Department of Health is required by the federal government to provide sufficient resources for an expected increase in call volumes as the 988 hotline number sees greater adoption. So the Legislature approved a tax on all radio access lines, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service lines, and switched access lines to support the system.
- Engrossed Second Substitute Bill 5096 levies a new state capital gains tax on the wealthy to benefit the Education Legacy Trust... an account in our state treasury that funds schools. Passage of this bill was a big step towards righting our upside down, unbalanced tax code and gaining sorely needed new financial resources for our kids. Unless you are one of only a tiny number of Washington families who is extremely wealthy, you will not pay this tax. It is only levied on those who have a lot of money. Family farms, timberland, and all real estate are exempt from the tax. There's also a business exemption.
- Second Substitute Senate Bill 5315 concerns captive insurance. Captive insurance, if you have never heard of it, is a special kind of insurance created by companies that aren't in the insurance industry but want to self-insure themselves against threats and risk to their well-being. The Legislature voted almost unanimously (Democrats and Republicans) to levy a tax on captive insurance back in the spring. The vote on this bill was 49-0 in the Senate and 96-1 in the House. It wasn't controversial. Families and individuals won't pay this tax on captive insurance... it will only be paid by some businesses.
Again, the reason why you see these three bills on your ballot and not any other bills the Legislature passed is because Eyman's scheme only sets up "advisory votes" on bills that raised state revenue in some way during the last legislative session.
Below is a detailed Q&A about "advisory votes" in case you would like more information about them.
What are “advisory votes”?
Conceptually, an advisory vote is a nonbinding plebiscite… a kind of ballot measure that asks voters to weigh in and express an opinion on an issue, but which does not change public policy. However, at the state level in Washington, “advisory votes” are actually a form of push poll concocted by convicted initiative promoter Tim Eyman to load up Washingtonians’ ballots with anti-tax propaganda.
"Advisory votes" are also a barrier to completing a ballot because they confuse voters and interrupt the act of voting. We therefore consider "advisory votes" a form of voter suppression.
Why do you call the “advisory votes” push polls, and why do you put “advisory votes” in quotation marks?
We call “advisory votes” push polls because that is what they really are.
“Advisory votes” is not an accurate descriptor, so we put it in quotes.
A push poll is generally understood to be a type of campaign tactic that attempts to influence public opinion by pretending to measure it.
For example, a candidate who wants to undermine support for a rival might pay a political operative to call voters with a script that dishes dirt on the rival candidate and then asks the voter for their opinion of the rival candidate. The poll itself is meaningless; the question being asked suggests its own answer.
Consider the following script:
John Doe is running for city council this year in Anytown, Washington. John Doe was recently caught speeding by our local police department and ticketed for going too fast in a school zone. John Doe’s neighbors have also complained that his animals are aggressive and a threat to kids playing in his neighborhood. The police have been called many times to John Doe’s home to deal with complaints made against him by his neighbors. Knowing these facts, are you more likely or less likely to support John Doe’s candidacy for city council?
Notice the script ends in a question, but any data resulting from question responses is totally worthless because it is preceded by information meant to bias the listener against John Doe. That’s actually not a problem for the poll’s creator, though, because the poll itself is a mechanism for the dissemination of information that could harm the prospects of John Doe.
The results are irrelevant… by design.
Eyman’s push polls work the same way. Their language and format was conceived by Eyman, and dictated by Initiative 960, which Eyman wrote.
Each push poll follows an identical format: highly misleading information is offered about a House and Senate action that raised state revenue (beginning with the words “The Legislature imposed, without a vote of the people…”), and then voters are asked to render a verdict on the tax increase by checking one of two ovals: “Repealed” or “Maintained”.
Voters are not told that regardless of how they vote, the law will not be changed. The only hint that they’re participating in a con is in the heading, which says “Advisory Vote”.
But don’t “advisory votes” still have some value, even if they’re not binding?
No. They don’t have any value whatsoever.
In fact, they have negative value: they waste tax dollars and confuse voters, interrupting the act of voting.
Legislators can’t draw any conclusions from an “advisory vote” result, because the questions voters are being asked are not neutrally written.
Bad inputs produce bad outputs.
As a programmer working at Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, or another tech company might say: garbage in, garbage out.
You wouldn’t consider a poll that contained negative information about one candidate and positive information about another as credible; it would not be deserving of a news story. When our team drafts poll questions, we work hard to ensure they are neutrally written because otherwise we can't find out what people really think.
Similarly, legislators cannot use any of the data produced by the “advisory votes” to inform their future decision making. The data is garbage. It simply cannot be relied upon.
Where did “advisory votes” come from? How’d we end up with them?
The RCW establishing “advisory votes” first came into being with the narrow passage of Eyman’s I-960 in 2007.
Initiative 960 was a measure that principally attempted to reinstate an unconstitutional scheme to require a two-thirds vote to raise revenue, in violation of Article II, Section 22 of the Washington State Constitution, which says that bills shall pass by majority vote.
“Advisory votes” are not a form of ballot measure provided for by the Washington State Constitution, so we believe they are likely unconstitutional, like that two-thirds vote requirement was.
The Constitution spells out three kinds of measures: initiatives, referenda, and constitutional amendments, all of which are binding.
- Initiatives (see Article II, Section 1) are laws proposed by citizens. An initiative can either go to the people or to the Legislature for consideration. All initiatives originate from citizen petitions. Petitions must contain signatures bearing the marks of a number of voters equivalent to eight percent of the total who turned out in the last election for governor.
- Referenda (see Article II, Section 1) are votes on actions taken by the Legislature or by the Washington Citizens' Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials. Usually, the action is a bill, but it could also be a salary schedule or an initiative passed by the Legislature. A referendum can be triggered in one of two ways: by majority vote of the Legislature, or by citizen petition. Petitions must contain signatures bearing the marks of a number of voters equivalent to four percent of the total who turned out in the last election for governor.
- Constitutional amendments (see Article XXIII) are proposed changes to the state’s plan of government. To pass, a constitutional amendment must first earn the support of two-thirds of the members of the Washington State House and Senate, then a majority vote of the people at a general election.
The first “advisory votes” appeared on ballots nearly ten years ago, during the 2012 general election.
Although Eyman’s push polls date back to December of 2007, when I-960 initially went into effect (part of it would later be struck down as unconstitutional in League of Education Voters v. State of Washington), no one remembered that they existed until several years later… not even their creator Tim Eyman.
How many “advisory votes” have appeared on Washingtonians’ ballots to date?
Counting this year's batch, there have been thirty-eight.
How many will voters see this year?
As mentioned, three, numbered #36, #37, and #38.
The bills being subjected to anti-tax propaganda are:
- Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1477 (Implementing the national 988 system to enhance and expand behavioral health crisis response and suicide prevention services.)
- Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5096 (Concerning an excise tax on gains from the sale or exchange of certain capital assets.)
- Second Substitute Senate Bill 5315 (Concerning captive insurance.)
All of these bills raised state revenue. Note Tim Eyman's I-960 defines a tax increase, nonsensically, as any action that increases state revenue. So if the Legislature repeals a tax break and recovers revenue for the state treasury, that is considered a tax increase, even though taxes weren't increased.
Are there costs associated with the presence of Eyman’s push polls on the ballot?
In previous elections, each measure soaked up two pages in the voter pamphlet and the cost per page ranged between $12,000 and $15,000 depending on what else was in the pamphlet.
Final figures for this year won’t be known until September. If they’re in line with the past, these measures will require 24 pages at a cost of up to a half-million taxpayer dollars.
The costs associated with Eyman’s push polls go far beyond pages in the voter’s pamphlet statement, however.
The push polls also increase the cost to Washington’s thirty-nine counties to print, send, and tabulate ballots.
Quantifying these additional costs is neither simple nor easy, because the counties do not typically break down elections costs by jurisdiction and category.
However, in odd-numbered years, the counties do bill the State of Washington for state-level items, under an arrangement that dates back several decades.
And in 2017, in most counties, the only state level items on the ballot were “advisory votes”, because there were no initiatives, referenda, or constitutional amendments on the ballot that year (same as this year). That gives us a better idea of how much the “advisory votes” cost on their own.
As we explained to the editors and fellow readers of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, our research at the Northwest Progressive Institute found that Walla Walla County billed the state of Washington $11,438.52 for costs associated with the “advisory votes.” That was the bill for just one of the state’s thirty-nine counties in one year!
We have compiled a spreadsheet that documents the cost to the counties of the 2017 crop of “advisory votes”. It can be downloaded from Permanent Defense’s website.
Where can I find additional information about the “advisory votes”?
- We maintain a page on Permanent Defense’s website which offers a graphical breakdown of Eyman’s push polls.
- You’ll also find a downloadable PDF there that explains why Eyman’s push polls should be repealed.
- And see this blog post from early October 2021 that discusses this year's crop of "advisory votes".