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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

By now, most local voters have received their Nov. 7 General Election ballots in the mail. You may have noticed the ballot includes a handful of “advisory votes.” Several constituents have contacted my office requesting information on what these mean. So, I’d like to take a few moments to share with you what an advisory vote is, as well as a brief description of the three advisory issues on this year’s ballot.

Please note, I am not providing advise on how you should vote. This is merely an explanation. It is in no way is an expression for or against the ballot measures. State law (RCW 42.52.180) requires “that no state officer or state employee may use or authorize the use of facilities of an agency, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of a person to an office or for the promotion of, or opposition to, a ballot proposition.”

So, what’s an advisory vote?

Initiative 960 was approved by Washington voters in November 2007. It requires an advisory vote of the people when the Legislature raises taxes, or causes an increase in a tax rate due to a repeal on tax benefit, without referring the measure to the people.

This allows voters to tell lawmakers whether they should repeal a new tax rate, or maintain the tax increases approved by the Legislature. It’s important for voters to note that advisory votes are non-binding. They simply advise lawmakers on what the majority of voters think about a measure.

Included in the 2017 statewide General Election ballot are three advisory measures asking whether voters agree or disagree with the tax increases approved by the Legislature. Here is a brief explanation of each:

Please note, each advisory measure simply asks voters if the tax increase should be repealed or maintained. 

Advisory Vote #16: Asks voters to mark whether the tax increase related to House Bill 1597 should be repealed or maintained. This bill is meant to streamline wholesale fish dealing, buying and selling, and increased commercial fishing license fees. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, the bill increases the enhanced food fish excise tax (otherwise known as “landing tax”) from 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent for Chinook, Coho and Chum salmon on ocean waters, the Columbia River, Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. It also includes anadromous game fish, which are fish that swim upriver from the ocean to spawn. The new revenue from the increase will be deposited into the state’s Wildlife Account. The measure passed the House 92-2 (4 excused) and the Senate 46-3.

Advisory vote #17: Seeks voters’ opinions on implementation of House Bill 2163. This bill was one of the primary packages used to increase revenue for passage of the 2017-19 state’s operating budget. The measure went into effect July 7, 2017, but has varying effective dates for individual provisions.

Advisory Vote #18: Asks voters to weigh in on House Bill 2242. This is the so-called “McCleary Solution” bill, which, among other things, implements local levy reform as a way to put more of the responsibility of K-12 school funding on the state for basic educational needs.

House Bill 2242 revises state allocations for school district employee salaries, enhances state funding under the prototypical school model, increases the state property tax, and establishes a new levy formula for school district maintenance and operations levies. Based on the new changes, some taxpayers will see a decrease in their property taxes, while others may see an increase.

This bill is intended to address the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision on K-12 education funding. It also creates a new health benefits purchasing program for school employees. The measure passed the House 67-26 (5 excused) and the Senate 32-17. The change is estimated to cost just above $12.9 billion over 10 years.

I hope this explanation has proven useful to you. Most importantly, I encourage you to vote. I also encourage you to read both the local and state voters’ guides. Visit the Snohomish County Local Voters Pamphlet page online: https://snohomishcountywa.gov/3961/Voters-Pamphlet. You can also download the state’s 2017 Voters Pamphlet from the Secretary of State’s website here: https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/research/2017-Voters-Pamphlet.aspx.

As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments and concerns. If you have an idea for how state government can work better, please contact me. My door is always open. My contact information is listed below.

Thank you for allowing me to represent you in Olympia.


Mark Harmsworth

State Representative Mark Harmsworth, 44th Legislative District
466 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7892 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000