It’s that time again, when the minds of engaged citizens turn to the upcoming General Election. “But,” you say, “it’s an off-year election! What could there possibly be on the ballot that I could find engaging?” The answer is, “Just enough.” As has been the case in nearly every election in recent years, the measures – three initiatives and two amendments to the state constitution – give us reason to spend time doing a little extra study.
Click here for the Statewide Online Voters Guide. There you will find the official titles, descriptions, financial impact statements, and official statements for and against the Statewide Measures.
Initiative Measure No. 1125 concerns state expenditures on transportation. This initiative is another by Tim Eyman. Love him or hate him (and there seems to be practically no middle ground), his is a force for change in Washington state. It is notable that, right at the top of the financial impact statement, we encounter this foreboding statement:
The State Treasurer states that bonds secured solely by toll revenue will become prohibitively expensive if the Legislature sets tolls, thus eliminating this financing tool for transportation projects.
Among the intents of this initiative is to remove the setting of tolls from local commissions and place it in the hands of the state legislature. The Treasurer is of the opinion that this will reduce the reliability of toll-setting – tolls set by the legislature may be changed by the legislature – and that instability in income will cause bond issuers to charge prohibitively high interest rates. “Because investors in toll revenue bonds see the independence of toll-setting bodies as a critical credit characteristic, no other toll revenue bond issuer in the nation sets tolls subject to legislative approval,” according to an analysis by the Public Resource Advisory Group.
However, supporters argue there’s no difference between a toll and a tax. Initiative 1053, passed last year with a 64% vote, requires a super-majority of the legislature in order to enact increases in taxes and many kinds of fees. Supporters see this new initiative I-1125 as just a way of closing a loophole.
Initiative Measure No. 1163 concerns long-term care workers and services for elderly and disabled people.
Didn’t we already vote on this? Pretty much, yes. In 2008, voters passed Initiative 1029, which required federal criminal background checks and increased training for the long-term workers who assist seniors and people with disabilities. However, in response to budget pressures, the legislature reduced training requirements and delayed criminal background checks. I-1163 seeks to restore the background checks and training.
From the financial impact statement:
Current law requires increased mandatory training, background checks and certification for long-term care workers, depending on worker classification, beginning Jan. 1, 2014. Initiative 1163 would require the training, background checks and certification for long-term care workers to begin Jan. 7, 2012, but delay these requirements for community residential providers until Jan 1, 2016. For the long-term in-home care program, administrative costs are capped and performance audits with additional fraud investigators are required. Over six fiscal years, costs are estimated to increase $31.3 million and revenue from the federal government and fees is estimated to increase $18.4 million.
Opponents argue that the cost of these background checks and training will require the state to either raise revenues or, more likely, to cut services to the very people I-1163 intends to benefit.
Initiative Measure No. 1183 concerns liquor: beer, wine, and spirits (hard liquor).
This is Costco’s effort to take a do-over after I-1100 failed to win voter support last year. Readers will recall that was one of two related initiatives – the other was I-1105 – which failed to pass.
If approved by voters in November, the measure would require the state to close its 300-plus stores and sell off its liquor distribution center, while making Washington grocery stores with over 10,000 square feet (or approximately 1,500 stores) eligible to sell hard liquor.
Proponents argue that I-1183 gets our state government out of the business of distributing and selling liquor. They also say the campaign against 1183 “is funded by big national liquor distributors that profit from Washington’s outdated liquor monopoly.”
Opponents say I-1183 will benefit big-box stores over smaller outlets, will increase liquor consumption and will drive up the cost of liquor, through increased taxes.
Senate Joint Resolution 8205 would remove an inoperative provision from the state constitution regarding the length of time a voter must reside in Washington to vote for president and vice-president.
One portion of the Washington Constitution allows a citizen to vote in all elections after they have resided in the state for 30 days. But, another section in the Constitution requires 60 days residency before they can vote for President. SJR 8205 fixes this conflict to allow the shorter 30 day voter residency requirement is the constitutional standard for all elections in the state, including the presidential election.
There is no official statement against this measure, on the Online Voters’ Guide.
Senate Joint Resolution 8206 is a constitutional amendment which “would require the legislature to transfer additional moneys to the budget stabilization account in each fiscal biennium in which the state has received ‘extraordinary revenue growth,’ as defined, with certain limitations.”
From the statement in favor of SJR 8206, we read:
In 2007, voters approved the creation of a constitutionally-protected rainy day fund that requires state government to set aside 1% of revenues annually for hard times. SJR 8206, a bipartisan measure, strengthens this fund by requiring a portion of “extraordinary” revenue – that which exceeds 133% of historical average growth – be saved, rather than spent.
However, the statement against this constitutional amendment points out that:
8206 requires more than the 1% that voters approved – it would also require that “extraordinary revenues” go into savings. While it sounds like a good idea to save more – the result is people paying taxes and getting nothing for it, except a bigger savings account.
So, there they are. Your 2011 statewide measures. What arguments are you finding particularly compelling? What resources are you finding to help you to come to an educated opinion regarding how you will vote? Leave your comments here, join us on our Facebook Page or on the GriffinNeighbors online discussion group.