2010 Washington State Voter’s Guide

This November offers up some serious measures and elections, as well as seriously confusing measures and initiatives. I’ve outlined why I’m voting for some and not others, as well as my picks for the state elections. Democracy in action: research and vote!

I don’t usually use this blog as a direct political outlet, but after opening up my mail-in ballet for the Washington State November Election I was inspired to write something. This election is important – not only because it represents a serious threat to progressive action on a national level (don’t vote in republicans!) but also here in Washington there are some important initiatives and elections. You can’t just read the ballet and understand the implications of these measures – especially since many of them include multiple changes to law, overlap in odd ways and are all the source of much campaigning by corporate interests.

I did a little research, as all members of a democracy should – be educated and involved. There are numerous sites out there, but you should at least look at your state voter’s guide to read about the measures before you vote. In the past I have used the local free newspaper, The Stranger, and the county/state guides to help me come to a decision. This year I did a little more research on these complicated measures, although I’ll admit I came to similar conclusions as The Stranger on most of them, it was of my own decision making skills.

Here are my choices for the 2010 November Election for Washington State (King County, Specifically):

Initiative 1053

Vote NO on Initiative 1053

“Initiative Measure No. 1053 concerns tax and fee increases imposed by state government. This measure would restate existing statutory requirements that legislative actions raising taxes must be approved by two-thirds legislative majorities or receive voter approval, and that new or increased fees require majority legislative approval.”

This initiative is pushed by the conservatives who think we’ve got a big government and want to make sure we don’t institute any new taxes. Right now we’re facing a serious budget problem, and will be for some time until we can get the economy repaired. If we can’t find good ways to create income for the state, and since states cannot go bankrupt, we’d be forced to cut services even further. This means less health care, less education, less essential services.

We are one of the least taxed countries in the world. If you don’t think the money is being managed well enough, then elect a better congress or run for office, but don’t strip the income when we’re already running short. Worse yet, this allows a minority to keep the state income down (tea party, anyone?), thus requiring further cuts in essential services down the road, while the costs (monetary, social, etc) are being placed on the people.

California has a similar law in place and they are bankrupt.

Initiative 1082

Vote NO on Initiative 1082

“Initiative Measure No. 1082 concerns industrial insurance. This measure would authorize employers to purchase private industrial insurance beginning July 1, 2012; direct the legislature to enact conforming legislation by March 1, 2012; and eliminate the worker-paid share of medical-benefit premiums. “

This initiative essentially privatized worker compensation and removes most of the avenues employees would normally have to suing their employers for damages when they are injured on the job. This initiative will hurt small business by increasing premiums, gives more business to the big insurance companies and removes important oversight at L&I. Sure, this department might be a pain for business when employees get hurt, but it is not something we can afford, socially, to remove. This initiative is just a way to screw the little guy and put more money in big business pockets.

Initiative 1098

Vote YES on Initiative 1098

“Initiative Measure No. 1098 concerns establishing a state income tax and reducing other taxes. This measure would tax “adjusted gross income” above $200,000 (individuals) and $400,000 (joint-filers), reduce state property tax levies, reduce certain business and occupation taxes, and direct any increased revenues to education and health.”

If there was every a modern-day initiative for a steady stater to support, this would be one. As The Stranger puts it, “Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the nation. The poor pay 17.3 percent of their income in taxes, while the rich pay only 2.6 percent of their income in taxes.” We need a more equal distribution of wealth, not only because it’s fair, but because our society will be better off because of it. Read The Spirit Level if you don’t believe me.

Initiative 1100 & 1105

Vote YES on Initiative 1100

Vote NO on Initiative 1105

“Initiative Measure No. 1100 concerns liquor (beer, wine and spirits). This measure would close state liquor stores; authorize sale, distribution, and importation of spirits by private parties; and repeal certain requirements that govern the business operations of beer and wine distributors and producers.”

“Initiative Measure No. 1105 concerns liquor (beer, wine and spirits). This measure would close all state liquor stores and license private parties to sell or distribute spirits. It would revise laws concerning regulation, taxation and government revenues from distribution and sale of spirits.”

I have a strong interest in these initiatives – our state liquor stores are horrible, bad selection and staffed by people completely devoid of knowledge. Want a good scotch? They can tell you which on sells the most, but that’s about it. These stores are a waste of our money and make you feel like a felony when you buy liquor. Now that we finally have small distilleries legally making craft liquor in the state, these bread-box stores need to be replaced with craft-loving stores and shopkeepers!

1100 and 1105 are very similar, but very different in key ways. I-1100 would allow private parties to sell liquor, and allow them to buy directly from liquor wholesalers (instead of through the state). It would remove the state’s monopoly on price increases (which, apparently is why liquor is so expensive in this state) but still save the state’s taxes on liquor. The tax is important as a stream of revenue and to recoup the social costs of alcoholism that the state pays for with police, hospitals, et cetera.

While I-1105 looks like it might do the same, it actually is worse. It removes the state’s mark-up and the tax. This means we’d loose all our revenue from liquor in one swoop, in a time when the budget is already tight. Liquor is not exactly a “good” and should be taxed for the many “bads” that result from misuse of it (drunk drivers, alcoholism, etc). Taxing liquor is a good thing, but controlling the sale and prices is not.  The losses from the inflated liquor prices are actually minor and can be taken car of with tax measures in the future (so long as we keep the liquor taxes).

If you’re one of those worried about more exposure to minors, you should know that California has a similar law and few underage drinking. Once the liquor board is out of the liquor selling business they can get back to focusing on enforcement, which should push our underage drinking down and is what the liquor board should be doing anyway.

If both of these measures pass then it will be drawn into the courts to decide, which will likely make matters worse, not better. I-1100 is a good measure, vote for it only.

Initiative 1107

Vote NO on Initiative 1107

“Initiative Measure No. 1107 concerns reversing certain 2010 amendments to state tax laws. This measure would end sales tax on candy; end temporary sales tax on some bottled water; end temporary excise taxes on carbonated beverages; and reduce tax rates for certain food processors.”

The state is in a budget crisis, so it has instituted a temporary tax on bottled water, candy and soda. These products are, in my mind, useless to our society. We have great tap water and plastic bottles are harsh on our environment, not only in production but especially in disposal. Candy and soda are full of high fructose corn syrup and a definite contributor to our society’s obesity and diabetes problems. Those problems have social costs in health care that should be accounted for in their price with taxes to discourage over consumption, just like we tax liquor and should tax many other bads.

Everything comes down to money, and this is another place where we have a progressive tax that is actually good for the people. I heard a guy on the radio, a “local” bottler who complained about how he had to lay off 6 people in his plant (out of hundreds, I would imagine). 6 people?! Everyone has had to lay off a few people in this recession, that doesn’t point a conclusive finger at the soda tax.

The state had to choose between cutting funding for public schools and child health care or taxing candy and soda. That’s an easy choice and they made the correct one. This initiative would reverse that and hurt our state. Won’t somebody think of the children?!

Referendum 52

Vote To Approve Referendum 52

“The legislature has passed Engrossed House Bill No. 2561, concerning authorizing and funding bonds for energy efficiency projects in schools. This bill would authorize bonds to finance construction and repair projects increasing energy efficiency in public schools and higher education buildings, and continue the sales tax on bottled water otherwise expiring in 2013.”

This referendum will expand the bonds available to improve the energy efficiency in schools. Our schools in Washington are old and horribly inefficient. This is smart for the kids, for our energy bills and when thinking about peak  oil and climate change. Enough said.

State Amendment Resolution 8225

Vote To Approve Resolution 8225

“The legislature has proposed a constitutional amendment concerning the limitation on state debt. This amendment would require the state to reduce the interest accounted for in calculating the constitutional debt limit, by the amount of federal payments scheduled to be received to offset that interest.”

This changes the way the state accounts for interest, allow us to borrow more federal money for infrastructure projects.

State Amendment Resolution 4220

Vote To Approve Resolution 4220

“The legislature has proposed a constitutional amendment on denying bail for persons charged with certain criminal offenses. This amendment would authorize courts to deny bail for offenses punishable by the possibility of life in prison, on clear and convincing evidence of a propensity for violence that would likely endanger persons.”

This amendment would allow courts to keep prisoners without bail until trail that are facing crimes punishable by life in prison. Last winter four police officers were killed by a guy who should have stayed in jail based on his record, but was instead released on bail shortly before killing the police officers.

King County

Charter Amendments No 1, 2 & 3

Vote YES on All the Amendments

I looked in detail at these only to find I should have just trusted The Stranger on this one. Basically, the charter needs to have some re-writing: clarifying the word “environment”; eliminating a reporting redundancy for political campaigns; ans transferring from the King County executive to the King County sheriff some of the responsibility in  public safety employees bargaining.

Proposition 1

Vote To Approve Proposition 1

“The Metropolitan King County Council adopted Ordinance 16899 concerning funding for criminal justice, fire protection, and other government purposes. This proposition would authorize King County to fix and impose an additional sales and use tax of 0.2%, spilt between the county (60%) and cities (40%). At least one-third of all proceeds shall be used for criminal justice or fire protection purposes. County proceeds shall be used for criminal justice purposes, such as police protection, and the replacement of capital facilities for juvenile justice. The duration of the additional sales and use tax will be as provided in section 6 of Ordinance 16899. “

What could be a more essential service than police departments? This proposition institutes a small sales tax increase to keep 71 sheriff’s department positions, 22 deputy prosecutors, and 42 superior court employees. It amounts to around $3 a month per household, but saves these essential crime prevention and protection departments. It also generates money to help cities in their budget deficits, like the $13 million for Seattle, for instance. Not supporting this would cut our sheriffs and courts, but likely also cut buses, transit, and other king county and Seattle city services. So Vote Yes.

United State Senator: Patty Murray, US Representative District No 7: Jim McDermott

The smear campaigns out for incumbent Patty Murray are pretty ridiculous, even for political commercials. Blaming her for “18 years” of government misdeeds or budget problems (most from the Republican-packed years of the Bush Administration) is just idiotic. I won’t say much more about the politicians, because I would like to avoid out-right support for them on this blog. I will say this: if you think things are bad now (which I think they’re getting better) they will without a doubt get worse if we give more power to the nut-job, right-wing republicans. Get out and vote for every democrat regardless! For more, read The Stranger’s reasons to support Patty and Jim here.

Image Credit: Picapp.com