This state is ripe for a tax revolt. Washington boasts one of the most regressive tax systems in the country, because of, among other things, high sales and property taxes, the lack of a state income tax, and corporate tax breaks for fat cats such as Boeing and Immunex. That's why people are frustrated: I-695 passed easily despite its draconian consequences and it's only a matter of time before a Prop 13-;style property tax initiative bomb explodes as well.
That's why it's particularly important that taxes and bonds up for ballot approval have strong rationales. Otherwise, their existence just feeds the anti-tax hysteria.
The two measures on the September ballot fail that simple test, and they should be voted down.
The first, King County Proposition No. 1, calls for $193.1 million in general obligation bonds for seismic improvements and a 50-bed expansion at Harborview Medical Center.
The owner of a $200,000 home would pay $17 a year for the next 20 years to pay off these bonds. There should be plenty of other places to get the money. Harborview is the Class I trauma center for a four-state area; it's disingenuous to ask King County to foot the bill for its expansion. Since the federal government requires many of these changes to meet new standards for trauma care facilities, why doesn't DC help to pay for the expansion? Where is state government? And since one of the rationales for expansion is that Harborview is currently operating at virtual capacity, why not tax admissions? Private medical centers such as Swedish and Virginia Mason have impressive rosters of wealthy private donors. How about Harborview?
Moreover, who will staff the 50 new beds? Harborview can't find the nursing and support personnel to handle the patient load it has now; it's chronically short-staffed. This is the wrong proposal at the wrong time.
If the Harborview levy is cynical, King County Proposition No. 2 is flat-out dishonest. The property tax levy to fund "automated fingerprint identification system services" began in 1986 as a "temporary" property tax hike. As with many "temporary" government intrusions, this one has stuck around, as subsequent generations of politicians have found it easier to renew the tax every five years than to find a place for it in the regular operating budget, which is how it should be funded.
Once again, Ron Sims and the King County Council are going to the well, figuring that fighting crime is popular enough to fund through tax hikes, creating budget space for other pork instead. It will cost property owners $12.85 in 2001—$54 million in all by the end of the period—for a system that should be part of regular law enforcement budgets if it's as useful as its technophile proponents claim.
It's not. One of the supposed benefits of this system was that it quickly identified anonymous WTO protesters last year when many refused to give their legal names. Gee. Just what we need, a quick, accurate way for the state to figure out the names of the people whose constitutional rights it is violating. Vote no.
Nader's Raiders at Arena
Ralph Nader is speaking at a big rally Sept. 23 at Key Arena. Organizers want to fill the arena, and if a recent 10,000 person audience at Portland's Memorial Coliseum is any indication of Nader's West Coast drawing power, they just might.
How telling is it that Nader can fill basketball arenas with paying supporters while Al Bore and George W. Gush—or is that George Bore and Al Gush—can't get people to care for free?
Nader's candidacy is having a remarkable organizing impact nationally and locally for the Green Party, which until a month or two ago didn't even have an office.
Hopefully, the legacy will be permanent, unlike the personality cult campaigns of Ross Perot and Jesse Jackson. Meanwhile, it's fun—in kind of a gruesome way—to watch corporate apologists explain why Nader isn't being allowed in the presidential debates next month. The real reason? He'd cream them.