Washington state voters snubbing income tax measure

SAN FRANCISCO Fri Oct 29, 2010 7:44pm EDT

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - More voters in Washington state oppose than favor a closely watched measure on the November 2 ballot that would impose an income tax on the state's wealthy, according to poll results released on Friday.

Initiative 1098 is opposed by 50 percent of all registered voters and backed by 44 percent, with 6 percent undecided, according to findings of the KCTS-9/KPLU/Washington Poll.

Additionally, among likely voters, 54 percent oppose the measure, 43 percent support it and 3 percent are undecided.

Opposition to the measure is firming as a result of rising concerns that an income tax on the rich would open the door to income taxes on lower-income brackets, said Washington Poll director and University of Washington Professor Matt Barreto.

"If this measure in fact fails it will be due to middle-income voters," Barreto said. "That is where the opposition is strongest by far."

The measure is being closely watched beyond Washington state, one of a handful of states without an income tax, as a potential signal that voters may be willing to accept higher taxes to help bolster weak state revenue and offset spending cuts imposed in tackling state budget deficits.

Voters in neighboring Oregon earlier this year bucked their history of rejecting tax increases and approved ballot measures raising corporate taxes and income taxes on the wealthy.

The Washington measure, touted by Bill Gates Sr, father of Microsoft Corp Chairman Bill Gates, would impose an income tax on individuals earning more than $200,000 a year or households earning more than $400,000 a year.

The measure would also lower state property taxes by 20 percent and reduce the state's business and occupation tax and direct any increased revenues to education and health programs.

Texas Governor Rick Perry recently seized on the measure to invite top businesses in Washington state to relocate to his state, which does not have an income tax. His letter to them stressed that Texas has no interest in establishing an income tax.

The poll's results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.

(Reporting by Jim Christie; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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