Votersto decide six issues on ballot

Published on Thu, Oct 25, 2007 by ack Kintner

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Voters to decide six issues on ballot

By Jack Kintner

Initiatives and referendums are both ways that Washington state allows voters to make direct decisions, initiatives to enact new laws and referendums to review laws proposed or passed by the state legislature.

This year’s ballot for Blaine and Birch Bay voters includes one of each, plus four constitutional amendments.

Initiative 960 – Proposed by Tim Eyman, long-time tax rebel in state politics. It’s the fourteenth initiative he has proposed since 1998 (only three have been successful), and would greatly expand paperwork and voter approval for state tax increases while somewhat widening the two-thirds majority needed for the legislature to enact tax hikes.

Eyman says the initiative is needed to close loopholes in earlier budget and taxing rules enacted by his previous measures. Opponents say that the extra paperwork, elections and convoluted budgeting process it mandates are a waste of time, duplicating checks and balances that are already in place.

The state’s office of financial management estimates that the cost of enacting Initiative 960 would be up to $1.8 million per year, and that much of this expense would fall to local governments since they pay for elections in even-numbered years.

Referendum 67 – This measure passed the legislature by a roughly three to two margin in both houses and enjoys bi-partisan support. It prohibits non-medical policies insurance companies from unreasonably denying certain kinds of claims and allows for treble damages for violations of the act. Proponents claim that Washington is one of just a few states without similar laws. Opponents say that if enacted it will lead to frivolous lawsuits and increased insurance rates.

Constitutional amendments:
Senate Joint Resolution 8206

This bill passed the legislature overwhelmingly, and would require that 1 percent of state revenues be set aside into a budget stabilization account each year. Proponents point to the “feast or famine” of state revenues that are generated by a tax system that depends heavily on the economy being healthy.

Opponents claim that the money thus locked up would be too difficult to get at in an emergency.

Senate Joint Resolution 8212

It passed the senate 49-0 and the house 83-15, and provides for a state-operated inmate labor program that can be used by private entities. Proponents say that inmates should work to reduce the cost of keeping them in jail, while opponents fear that such programs would compete with private industry, despite safeguards supposedly built into the law.

House Joint Resolution 4204

Endorsed by the Blaine school board, this measure passed the senate 33-16 and the house 79-19, and would allow school district tax levies to be approved by a simple majority instead of a super majority, where 60 percent of the voters must vote yes and the number of people voting cannot be less than 40 percent of those who voted in the last general election.

Proponents say that requiring 60 percent approval amounts to having to have a landslide in each election, while opponents see it as a nearly automatic property tax increase.

House Joint Resolution 4215

Only two people in the entire legislature voted against this measure, which would allow greater latitude for those responsible for investing higher education permanent funds that function for state colleges and universities much like an endowment fund does for a private school.

The constitution presently limits investments to low-yield devices like government bonds. Proponents say that it would allow for a more diversified mix of funding for state universities while opponents say that the income is sufficient and that passing this resolution will increase risks while paying off only for stockbrokers.