Voters reject new REET tax

Voters reject new REET tax
Washington voters in an advisory vote overwhelmingly opposed a restructured real estate excise tax (REET) approved by the state legislature earlier this year. Photo: freepik.com

If the outcome of Nov. 5 election’s advisory votes are any indication, Washington voters have little stomach for new taxes – of the 12 new taxes approved this year, voters rejected all but three of them.

However, this opposition appears to be the strongest regarding the newly restructured real estate excise tax (REET) approved by the state legislature earlier this year. According to the latest vote count by the Secretary of State’s Office, voters opposed the new REET by nearly 65 percent, with the measure being rejected by all 29 counties.

While some State House observers put little stock in non-binding advisory votes, others feel the results will likely shape discussions regarding existing taxes and any new revenue proposals due to how voters responded differently to each measure. Also, the latest vote tally shows that roughly 92 percent of Washingtonians who voted on Initiative 976 creating a $30 car tab also voted on the new REET tax.

Although voters rejected those nine taxes by sizeable majorities, the percentages varied. Advisory Vote No. 25 regarding a new tax on certain business activities was rejected by approximately 55 percent, but Advisory Vote No. 27 concerning a tax on petroleum products was opposed by roughly 60 percent. Also noteworthy was that the REET tax was rejected in King County by approximately 51 percent, whereas voters there supported the new petroleum tax by 58 percent.

Panattoni Development Company real estate developer Travis Hale told Lens that the outcome “overwhelmingly points to Olympia not being aligned with Washington state voters on what is best for the state’s overall health, competitiveness, and livability. In the simplest terms, when put to a vote the public does not like the income tax disguised as a REET tax. They saw right through it.”

He added that if the REET tax remains, it will push real estate investments away from high-value downtown areas, or cause investors to look at other states entirely. “That the public has seen the details of the REET tax and they clearly rejected it proves the public is against taxes and unfriendly business initiatives.”

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