A judge has thrown out a lawsuit aiming to stop Tacomas Proposition 1, saying the citys measure to leverage an additional 2 percent tax on utility company earnings is clear as written and should proceed to the Nov. 5 ballot.
The group Stop Higher Utility Taxes claimed the citys ballot measure was unclear because it didnt say the proposed additional 2 percent tax on natural gas, phone and electric company earnings would be passed on to ratepayers.
But Pierce County Superior Court Judge Garold Johnson disagreed, saying it is obvious on utility customers bills that they pay the earnings taxes charged to utility companies. Gas, phone and electric companies already pay an earnings tax of 6 percent, which would rise to 8 percent if Proposition 1 passes.
Johnson dismissed the complaint from Stop Higher Utility Taxes, ruling in favor of the city.
The pragmatic part of this is, is this purposefully misleading? And I think it is not, Johnson said. You see it on your bill.
Furthermore, Johnson said the citys ballot measure isn't required to state all of its possible effects in its title, which is limited to 75 words.
He added that the appropriate remedy for opponents of the ballot measure is to write an opposition statement for the Pierce County voter pamphlet. Pierce County and the City of Tacoma also argued the group had other options besides suing.
This is a matter for the auditors offices concern, not the trial courts concern, Johnson said.
Tacoma City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli said she considers Johnsons ruling a good outcome for the city. Tacoma officials estimate Proposition 1 will raise $11 million annually for road repairs such as filling potholes, repaving streets and adding crosswalks near schools.
The citys goal was to get a clean ballot title on the ballot for the November election, and this just clears the path for that to happen, Pauli said.
Bob Casey, an opponent of the ballot measure and a part of the Stop Higher Utility Taxes group, said he thinks that even though the lawsuit was dismissed, he hopes it helped raise voters awareness about how Proposition 1 will affect them.
Both Puget Sound Energy and Tacoma Power officials have said they will seek rate increases to cover their increased costs should Proposition 1 pass.
I hope its as clear to the voters as it was to the judge that this tax will be paid by voters, said Casey, a former member of the Tacoma Public Utilities board.
Proposition 1 also is a concern for Simpson Tacoma Kraft, which runs a pulp and paper mill on the Tacoma Tideflats. A lobbyist who has previously worked for Simpson, Bill Stauffacher, has been the primary organizer of the Stop Higher Utility Taxes group.
Representatives from Simpson urged the Tacoma City Council to kill Proposition 1 earlier this year, saying the resulting utility rate increases will cause will cost Simpson $500,000 a year.