OLYMPIA, Wash. – Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos are opposing an initiative to impose an income tax on the state's wealthiest residents.
Ballmer and Bezos each gave $100,000 to the Defeat 1098 campaign, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission website. The campaign has raised $3.5 million overall, including $100,000 from former Seattle SuperSonics owner Barry Ackerley and more than $100,000 from Bartell Drugs and its owner.
"We've known for some time that some of the state's wealthiest people who would pay more under I-1098 are opposing it for that reason," Sandeep Kaushik, a spokesman for Yes on 1098, told The Seattle Times.
Messages left Tuesday for Ballmer and Bezos, Amazon.com Inc.'s CEO, were not immediately returned.
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Steve Mullin, president of the Washington Roundtable, which represents executives from corporations, including Microsoft Corp., said that the contributions by Ballmer, Bezos and others "say that they've reached the same conclusion that many others have, which is this is really bad for the economy and really bad for job creation."
Under Initiative 1098, the income tax would have two brackets. The first is 5 percent of any income above $200,000, or $400,000 for couples. The second bracket is 9 percent on income above $500,000 for individuals or $1 million for couples.
The initiative also would cut the state property tax by 20 percent and increase the business-and-occupation tax credit to $4,800.
Advocates, who include Bill Gates Sr., father of the Microsoft co-founder, say I-1098 would raise about $1 billion per year for education and health programs. Washington is one of seven states without a personal income tax.
Supporters of the measure have raised more than $3.6 million, including $500,000 from the elder Gates.
Labor groups are the driving force behind the campaign, with $1.2 million from the Service Employees International Union, and $100,000 each from the Washington Education Association and the Washington Federation of State Employees.
Income tax measures have been attempted over the years in Washington with little success. A graduated income tax was enacted by initiative in 1932, passing with about 70 percent of the vote. But it was thrown out by the state Supreme Court, which pointed to the state constitution's call for uniform taxation on property.
Voters have defeated subsequent attempts to amend the constitution for a state income tax, most recently in 1973.
Earlier this year, voters in neighboring Oregon upheld higher income taxes on couples earning more than $250,000. New York, Maryland and other states also have increased taxes on their wealthiest residents in recent years.