Judge Blocks Tax On Roll Your Own Cigarettes

Jun 26, 2012
bachmont / Wikimedia Commons

Currently you can walk out of a tobacco shop with a pack of roll-your-own cigarettes for about $5.50. A pack of Marlboros will put you back almost twice that much. That’s because tobacco shops don’t charge the same tax on roll-your-own cigarettes as they would for pre-packaged cigarettes.

State of Washington

A King County judge Wednesday ruled that Washington voters cannot impose a two thirds majority requirement to raise taxes on the state legislature. Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller found voter approved anti-tax Initiative 1053 to be unconstitutional. But the ruling is far from the last word on the matter.

A group of Democratic state lawmakers and their allies sued to overturn the requirement for a two-thirds vote of the legislature to raise taxes. Washingtonians have repeatedly approved that high threshold at the ballot.

But a county judge in Seattle accepted the plaintiffs' argument that the supermajority requirement conflicts with the state constitution. It says a simple majority is all it takes to pass a bill.

Photo by Kevin Mooney / Northwest News Network

It’s no secret that interest groups influence state lawmakers. But it’s not often clear how that actually happens. Much of the action occurs behind-the-scenes. So we’re going to give you a rare glimpse inside the influence game -- to see how lobbyists help shape public policies that affect our everyday lives. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reconstructs how a lobbyist and his iPad changed the course of a $1 billion piece of legislation.

Photo by Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Since the 1970s, U.S. policy toward American Indian tribes has been to encourage economic independence. Tribal casinos are probably the most visible symbol of that policy. These days, tribes are diversifying into other businesses. In 2005, the Chehalis Indian tribe in southwest Washington partnered with a Wisconsin-based water park chain to build a destination resort. The state of Washington, in turn, granted the project tax exempt status. But now, correspondent Austin Jenkins has obtained internal state documents that question whether Great Wolf Lodge really is a tribal entity and eligible for favorable tax treatment.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Jenkins/ Flickr / Northwest News Network

Oregon initiative activists begin gathering signatures this weekend for a measure to do away with a corporate tax rebate. It's known as the kicker because it's triggered when tax revenues exceed projections by more than two percent.

There's also a personal tax kicker, which this initiative would not touch. The labor-backed group, Our Oregon is sponsoring the ballot measure. The proposal would send money from the corporate kicker to schools. Spokesman Scott Moore says currently most of the refunds go to companies headquartered outside of Oregon.

Idaho Lawmaker Is Tax Crusader To Some, Tax Dodger To Feds

Apr 13, 2012
Photo credit: Idaho House of Representatives / Northwest News Network

ATHOL, Idaho -- Tax evasion will get you into hot water with the IRS. But in north Idaho, it won’t necessarily spell the end of your political career. A Republican state legislator who believes the federal income tax is unconstitutional is battling charges of tax evasion, even as he seeks reelection.

The federal government says Phil Hart owes more than $500,ooo in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties. The U.S. Justice Department is threatening to foreclose on his home near Athol, Idaho if he doesn’t pay up. Meanwhile, Idaho tax collectors say Hart owes the state another $53,000.

Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Unless Congress acts, 2011 will be the last year Washington residents were able to deduct sales tax from their federal income tax returns. Governor Chris Gregoire signed onto a letter Tuesday asking Congressional leaders to reauthorize the deduction for 2012.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Oregon Senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, have secured their colleagues' support of several million dollars in aid to counties in timber country. As Oregon Public Broadcasting's April Baer reports, the Senate voted 86 to 12 in favor of an amendment to extend the Secure Rural Schools Act.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Electric car owners in Washington state would pay a $100 fee under a measure headed to the governor's desk. The aim is to offset the gas taxes these drivers are not paying. The bill passed Thursday night in one of the final votes of this year's regular session of the Washington Legislature, as Tom Banse reports.

Photo courtesy Washington State Legislature

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington voters consistently send Democratic majorities to the statehouse. But four times over the past 20 years they’ve also voted to require a supermajority of the legislature to raise taxes. Most recently, in 2010. Now a group of Democratic lawmakers and their allies are challenging the constitutionality of that two-thirds rule. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 9th. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins previews the case.