Poll finding on HB 1876
Visualization of NPI's poll finding on support for fiscal impact disclosures in ballot measure descriptions

More than eight in ten Wash­ing­ton vot­ers are sup­port­ive of leg­is­la­tion that would add trans­paren­cy and con­text to statewide ini­tia­tives and ref­er­en­da in Wash­ing­ton by dis­clos­ing fis­cal impacts to vot­ers on the bal­lot, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s most recent statewide research poll has found.

An incred­i­ble 82% of vot­ers sur­veyed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling last month for NPI expressed sup­port for requir­ing offi­cial descrip­tions for ini­tia­tives to inform vot­ers whether the pro­posed ini­tia­tive would increase or decrease fund­ing for pub­lic ser­vices. Just 11% were opposed and only 7% were not sure.

65% of the respon­dents expressed strong sup­port for the idea, which is under con­sid­er­a­tion in the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture as House Bill 1876.

Poll finding on HB 1876
Visu­al­iza­tion of NPI’s poll find­ing on sup­port for fis­cal impact dis­clo­sures in bal­lot mea­sure descriptions

Spon­sored by State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mia Gregerson (D‑33rd Dis­trict: South King Coun­ty), HB 1876 was approved by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives last month and is now on the floor of the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate. The bill is sup­port­ed by the League of Women Vot­ers of Wash­ing­ton, AARP Wash­ing­ton State, Fix Democ­ra­cy First, and many oth­er peo­ple and orga­ni­za­tions that share NPI’s com­mit­ment to mak­ing our bal­lots more sen­si­ble and infor­ma­tive for voters.

HB 1876 is pret­ty straightforward.

It requires that a mea­sure with a fis­cal impact appear on the bal­lot with a dis­clo­sure stat­ing whether the mea­sure would increase or decrease fund­ing for pub­lic ser­vices, fol­lowed by a suc­cinct list of the ser­vices impact­ed. If the gen­er­al fund is affect­ed, the state­ment would list the top three cat­e­gories of state ser­vices sup­port­ed by the gen­er­al fund in the cur­rent state budget.

Although local propo­si­tions such as levies already pro­vide this kind of fis­cal impact infor­ma­tion, statewide bal­lot mea­sures do not. In fact, state law does­n’t allow fis­cal impact dis­clo­sures to be append­ed to statewide ini­tia­tive and ref­er­en­dum bal­lot titles. HB 1876 solves this prob­lem, there­by ensur­ing that in the future, vot­ers are advised before they pick up a pen to fill in a Yes, No, Approved, or Reject­ed oval that the mea­sure they’re vot­ing on would affect the state’s finances.

HB 1876 is one of our pri­or­i­ty bills for 2022.

Its pas­sage will make future offi­cial descrip­tions of ini­tia­tives and ref­er­en­da more com­plete and trans­par­ent, help­ing vot­ers reach more informed deci­sions about what they’re vot­ing on, espe­cial­ly if they don’t have their voter’s pam­phlet handy. The state already pre­pares fis­cal impact state­ments for ini­tia­tives, but as not­ed above, there is no acknowl­edg­ment of pro­ject­ed fis­cal impacts on the bal­lot itself.

If HB 1876 is adopt­ed, vot­ers would be informed going for­ward when a statewide bal­lot mea­sure has an esti­mat­ed fis­cal impact, which could encour­age them to pick up their voter’s pam­phlet to learn more. This is an idea that Demo­c­ra­t­ic, Repub­li­can, and inde­pen­dent vot­ers are all enthu­si­as­tic about implementing.

Here is the ques­tion we asked and the answers we received:

QUESTION: In Wash­ing­ton State, the peo­ple may pro­pose laws for adop­tion or rejec­tion at the bal­lot after gath­er­ing suf­fi­cient sig­na­tures. These are known as ini­tia­tives. Cur­rent state law does not require offi­cial descrip­tions of ini­tia­tives to dis­close pro­ject­ed finan­cial impacts to pub­lic ser­vices as part of their bal­lot titles. Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose or strong­ly oppose requir­ing offi­cial descrip­tions for ini­tia­tives to inform vot­ers whether the pro­posed ini­tia­tive would increase or decrease fund­ing for pub­lic services?


  • Sup­port: 82% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 65%
    • Some­what sup­port: 17%
  • Oppose: 11%
    • Some­what oppose: 6%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 5%
  • Not sure: 7%

Our sur­vey of 700 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Thurs­day, Feb­ru­ary 17th through Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 18th, 2022.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.7% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

More infor­ma­tion about the survey’s method­ol­o­gy is avail­able here.

The enthu­si­asm we saw for this leg­is­la­tion in our poll last month is tru­ly remark­able. This is eas­i­ly one of the most pop­u­lar ideas that we have ever test­ed in near­ly a decade of statewide research polling. In an era of polar­iza­tion and hyper­par­ti­san­ship, there sim­ply isn’t much that more than eight in ten vot­ers say they agree on. But strength­en­ing offi­cial descrip­tions to dis­close pro­ject­ed fis­cal impacts just makes sense. Vot­ers are wild­ly enthu­si­as­tic about this bill.

In fact, there isn’t a sin­gle group with­in the poll who are opposed. Trump vot­ers and Biden vot­ers are almost equal­ly enthu­si­as­tic. 79% of Trump vot­ers said they were sup­port­ive, while 86% of Biden vot­ers said they were supportive.

86% of inde­pen­dent vot­ers are sup­port­ive (71% strong­ly!), along with 81% of Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers and 76% of Repub­li­can voters.

Every sin­gle region of the state is incred­i­bly sup­port­ive, and the inten­si­ty of sup­port beyond King Coun­ty is extreme­ly impressive.

86% of vot­ers in East­ern and Cen­tral Wash­ing­ton are sup­port­ive (72% strong­ly), sur­pris­ing­ly exceed­ing King Coun­ty’s 80% support.

The South Sound leads all regions in over­all sup­port, with 89% total (73% strong­ly), but North Puget Sound and Olympia Penin­su­la / South­west Wash­ing­ton aren’t far behind at 79% and 80%, respectively.

Con­vict­ed chair thief and ser­i­al pub­lic dis­clo­sure law offend­er Tim Eyman, Wash­ing­ton’s most pro­lif­ic spon­sor of ini­tia­tives, is part of the 11% who oppose HB 1876. Eyman, who has made a liv­ing hawk­ing destruc­tive anti-tax ini­tia­tives, can’t stand the idea of vot­ers being advised that a mea­sure spon­sored by him or oth­ers like him would have a fis­cal impact because it would make it hard­er to dupe vot­ers with manip­u­lat­ed bal­lot titles. Eyman has described the pro­posed dis­clo­sure as akin to a “Sur­geon gen­er­al’s warn­ing for initiatives.”

How­ev­er, that’s not an appro­pri­ate metaphor.

Warn­ings from the Sur­geon Gen­er­al are required by law to appear on all con­tain­ers of cer­tain types of prod­ucts, like cig­a­rette car­tons or bot­tles con­tain­ing alco­holic bev­er­ages, and their word­ing is usu­al­ly always the same.

These dis­clo­sures would only appear when OFM assess­es that a mea­sure would have a fis­cal impact, and the dis­clo­sure’s lan­guage would be for­mu­lat­ed to inform vot­ers what ser­vices or types of ser­vices would be affected.

Every fis­cal impact dis­clo­sure would employ pre­scribed lan­guage and fol­low a for­mu­la. The Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s office would be tasked with sup­ply­ing the descrip­tors of the affect­ed ser­vices for the fis­cal impact disclosures.

The office already has to per­form a sim­i­lar task for “advi­so­ry votes” — a scheme of Eyman’s own design! How­ev­er, unlike Eyman’s “advi­so­ry votes,” these fis­cal impact dis­clo­sures would be neu­tral­ly word­ed, with the goal of pro­vid­ing essen­tial infor­ma­tion rather than try­ing to influ­ence how peo­ple vote.

The adop­tion of HB 1876 would be a huge win for vot­ers this leg­isla­tive ses­sion. We urge the Sen­ate to join the House in pass­ing this bill so that Wash­ing­to­ni­ans are assured of see­ing more descrip­tive sum­maries of ini­tia­tives and ref­er­en­da the next time they vote on a mea­sure that would affect the state’s finances.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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