What I-1098 Does: Initiative 1098 would create a state income tax for the wealthy—individuals who make over $200,000 a year and couples who make over $400,000 a year—and it would decrease property taxes and small business taxes for the rest of us. Vote yes on I-1098.

Steve Ballmer

Position: CEO of Microsoft

Net worth: $13.1 billion*

Increase in net worth in the last year: $2.1 billion**

Percentage of annual income he would pay in taxes if I-1098 passes: 9 percent

Money contributed to defeat I-1098: $425,000***

Nobody has spent more to defeat Initiative 1098 than Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, the 33rd richest person on earth and resident of Hunts Point on Lake Washington. Still, his anti-initiative contributions are dimes compared to how much he saves by keeping the unbalanced tax system we have now. Currently in Washington State, the poorest residents pay 17.3 percent of their income and the richest pay 2.6 percent. If I-1098 passes and Ballmer has to pay a 9 percent income tax, he could pay up to $189 million in a year like last year, when his net worth grew by $2.1 billion. Even though he's spending almost half a million dollars to defeat the initiative, oddly enough he has said that folks need to pay more taxes. "Taxpayers in this state have to come to grips with the notion that we need to invest more in our education system overall," Ballmer said in a speech at the Four Seasons Olympic Hotel in 2003. It just so happens that I-1098 would reserve 70 percent of its roughly $2.3 billion in projected revenue a year exclusively for public education. But when it's Ballmer's tax money—or tax money from the wealthy—he's opposed. Ballmer must mean that poor and middle-class taxpayers need to "come to grips" with spending more on public schools, not him.

Paul Allen

Position: Chairman of Vulcan

Net worth: $12.7 billion*

Increase in net worth in the last year: $2.2 billion**

Percentage of annual income he would pay in taxes if I-1098 passes: 9 percent

Money contributed to defeat I-1098: $100,000***

Paul Allen doesn't support our state's regressive tax structure and doesn't have a miserly soul made of carbon, says his spokesman David Postman, when asked why the Vulcan chairman donated so much money to the Defeat 1098 campaign. Allen has been a local philanthropist—more than $1 billion given in his lifetime, we're told—but his donations have been so meager compared to his incredible fortune that even the scrooges at the conservative Wall Street Journal asked if Allen's contributions to charity in 2007 were "giving enough?" Instead, Allen dispenses his money on personal luxuries. He spent $250 million on the biggest yacht in the world in 2003; he also has two more yachts and a fleet of private jets, and he owns several sports teams. As for vanity project Qwest Field, Allen paid to put it on the ballot, but only so that taxpayers—mostly poor and middle-class taxpayers—could pick up most of the $425 million construction tab in sales taxes, hotel and restaurant taxes, lottery proceeds, and other public funding. All which serves to profit the Seahawks, one of those sports teams he owns. His official reason for opposing I-1098 is that the legislature could adjust it to charge more taxes in the future—the same bogeyman other fat cats trot out to cover for the simple reality that they just don't want to pay fairer taxes. Asked if Allen has ever directed any of his gobs of wealth at reforming the tax structure he purportedly opposes, his spokesman says, "Not that I am aware of."

Jeff Bezos

Position: CEO of Amazon.com

Net worth: $12.6 billion*

Increase in net worth in the last year: $5.8 billion**

Percentage of annual income he would pay in taxes if I-1098 passes: 9 percent

Money contributed to defeat I-1098: $100,000***

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.com, has jumped from 68th richest person on earth in 2009 to 43rd this year. But during that period, Philanthropy.com noted his company was considered "stingy." And Slate reported, "Recent Amazon.com SEC filings and annual reports make no mention of grants, charitable donations, local arts support, or any other civic-minded efforts by the online giant," adding, "There are lemonade stands that donate more to charity than Amazon.com does." To what charitable coffers does Bezos write his checks? The noble cause of retaining his own fortune. If he had to pay his share of taxes under I-1098—his fair share to balance out with the poor—he'd pay $522 million in income taxes on his gain of net worth, a fraction of the $5.8 billion in gains he made last year.


Profit last year: $300 million****

Money contributed to defeat I-1098: $100,000***

Expedia, the Bellevue-based online ticket broker, signed a generic statement that said it donated money because if I-1098 passes, "Washington would go from no income tax to having one of the most onerous state income taxes in the nation." Never mind that we already have "the most onerous state... taxes in the nation"—for the poor. The rich? They should be exempt. After all, that could come out of their travel budget.


Profit last year: $18.8 billion****

Money contributed to defeat I-1098: $75,000***

Microsoft is constantly playing reveille on its butt trumpet about the importance of education funding. It's supposedly the company's number-one issue. "Microsoft's top public priority within Washington State has been our work to strengthen public education at both the K–12 and the higher education levels," Microsoft says on its website, vaunting its goodwill. But if education funding were Microsoft's top priority, it would be flat-out on the other side of this campaign. Nothing that Microsoft does currently comes anywhere close to compensating for the billions of dollars I-1098 would deliver to K–12 and higher education in this state. Programs it sponsors, like helping students with math—to reverse a brain drain from the state, which Microsoft is purportedly concerned about—can't compare to Microsoft's fight against education funding. Want to really help education? Vote for I-1098. And while you're at it, don't spend another penny on Microsoft's buggy, crashy, security-flaw-ridden, overpriced, and all-around-shitty software. Smart folks use Google Docs for free. recommended

* Source: Forbes
** Source: Forbes; profits are based on the increase of net worth, which includes salary at the time of payment and annual gains in assets such as stocks, which are taxed when sold.
*** Source: Washington State Public Disclosure Commission
**** Source: Corporate annual reports

With additional reporting by news intern Matt Luby.

This story has been updated since its original publication.