INITIATIVES, charter amendments, propositions, engrossed joint resolutions . . . what the heck is all this stuff? We've waded through the legalese, interviewed supporters and opponents, and called the reliable sources to bring you the best election advice available on this year's ballot measures.
State Initiative 747
Tax slasher Tim Eyman says this year's initiative is simple: Property tax increases would be held to 1 percent a year unless voters approve more. Simple or not, it's more bad law from Tim. The combination of inflation and population growth, plus the need for more government services in an economic downturn, means 1 percent translates into deep, difficult cuts for all of our local governments: cities, counties, and hospital, fire, and library districts. I-747 would also mean numerous future elections with complicated budget requests that voters would have to wade through. That's what we pay politicians for. We're sticking with representative democracy. Vote No on I-747.
State Initiative 773
Hey smokers! Somebody's got to pay for improved health care for the uninsured in Washington state, and a coalition of health groups has decided you'll do.
Initiative 773 would place a 60 cent per pack tax on cigarettes, with most of the proceeds financing new slots in the state's Basic Health Plan for uninsured low-income residents.
Washington is one of a handful of U.S. states in which the number of uninsured residents is growing. About 807,000 people, or 13.7 percent of the state's population, have no medical insurance of any kind. Within two years, I-773 would provide coverage for another 50,000. A drop in the bucket? Not to those 50,000 people.
This was a tough call for the editorial board: It makes us uneasy that this sin tax would assign costs to a minority group of citizens (about 23 percent of Washingtonians smoke) and grab the proceeds for the proponents' favorite cause. However, I-773's backers provide convincing evidence that smoking adds billions annually to U.S. health care costs—and that tax increases such as this bring down the smoking rate. Unfortunately, this may be the only politically viable method of tackling the state's appalling health care problems on the horizon. And smoking stinks. Vote Yes on I-773.
State Initiative 775
In-home care workers in Washington make a paltry $7.68 per hour, a situation that I-775 attempts to address. So does I-775 raise wages? Well, not really. The measure would propose a Home Care Quality Authority, a $3.4 million state bureaucracy that would establish standards, training, and referral services for these workers. It would also grant the workers the right to collectively bargain for better pay (which explains why the Service Employees International Union has spent some $650,000 to get this measure on the ballot). But the Legislature doesn't have to accept the contract or fund the authority. So how would this work? It didn't make sense to us either, and the 13 pages of legalese that comprise I-775 don't help—even its proponents don't seem sure of all the law's potential effects.
This is simply too weak and complicated a measure to support. Vote No on I-775.
Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution 8208
The courts are backlogged, but some judges have time on their hands. This constitutional amendment would allow superior courts to bring in judges from different court levels, both higher (appeals courts) and lower (municipal and district), to help with caseloads. It's a commonsense reform. Vote Yes on ESJR 8208.
House Joint Resolution 4202
The Washington State Investment Board invests pension funds, workers' compensation money, and the like. Originally the state constitution prohibited putting any of the dough in the stock market. Voters have already allowed 97 percent of state funds to be invested in a variety of things, including the stock market. This would authorize the final three percent. The board has done a good job so far, no reason not to trust them with the rest of it. Vote Yes on HJR 4202.
King County Charter Amendment Number 1
This charter amendment appears to be a simple reaffirmation of the free exercise of religion, a right guaranteed by the U.S. and state constitutions. In fact it's a misguided attempt by regional megachurches to build support for their rural expansion crusade. County government has been embroiled in an arcane, fractious debate over the zoning regulations for new churches in rural areas. The proponents of weaker regulations—right-wing Republicans and the churches—hope this charter amendment will give them legal and political ammunition in their fight. Voters should reject this stealth campaign. Vote No on Charter Amendment Number 1.
King County Proposition 1 (Medic One Levy)
Medic One saves lives. King County boasts one of the best emergency medical services in the country—and one of the worst ways of paying for it: a voter-approved property tax. Our warring local governments cannot agree on a better way to fund Medic One, so property taxes are our only choice at the moment. We wish there was a better way to fund it, but it is a service that we cannot do without. Vote Yes on Proposition 1.
The quick way to digest our political wisdom.
Initiative 747 (more tax cuts): Vote No
Initiative 773 (tax smoking, fund insurance): Vote Yes
Initiative 775 (home health care changes): Vote No
Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution 8208 (more judicial flexibility): Vote Yes
House Joint Resolution 4202 (more investment flexibility): Vote Yes
King County Charter Amendment No. 1 (megachurch crusade): Vote No
King County Proposition No. 1 (Medic One funding): Vote Yes
King County Executive: Ron Sims (D)
King County Council, District 1: Ed Sterner (R)
King County Council, District 3: Kathy Lambert (R)
King County Council, District 13: Julia Patterson (D)
Port of Seattle, District 1: Lawrence Molloy
Port of Seattle, District 3: Paige Miller
Port of Seattle, District 4: Christopher Cain
Seattle Mayor: Greg Nickels
Seattle City Attorney: Tom Carr
Seattle City Council, Position 2: Richard Conlin
Seattle City Council, Position 4: Curt Firestone
Seattle City Council, Position 6: Nick Licata
Seattle City Council, Position 8: Grant Cogswell
Seattle School Board, District 4: Dick Lilly
Seattle School Board, District 5: Mary Bass
Seattle School Board, District 7: Garry Breitstein
For more information on our reasons for endorsing candidates, see "The Politics of the Future," Oct. 25.