Voters seemed wary Tuesday of ballot measures that would cost them money or mandate too much change.
In Washington, they turned thumbs down to Initiative 1033, which would have imposed new spending limits on state, county and city governments that elected officials said were so radical they’d hamstring services. Voters were narrowly passing Referendum 71, a measure to ratify expanded rights to domestic partners, but the final decision might not be known for days.
Spokane city voters were narrowly rejecting a new $33 million bond issue for city fire equipment and stations, but fire officials were trying to stay “cautiously optimistic” they could gain enough votes in counts in the coming weeks to reach their 60 percent supermajority. There’s no such wait for a proposed change to Spokane’s City Charter: Voters soundly rejected a package of amendments that would have set new rules for wages, workplaces, neighborhood development and environmental protection.
Kootenai County voters shot down a pair of ballot measures that would have increased the sales tax for 10 years to pay for a jail expansion and provide property tax relief.
The latest in a long line of attempts by Tim Eyman to restrict government, this measure tried to attack the state’s, counties’ and cities’ ability to spend money through a formula that accounted for inflation and population growth. Any money collected above that level would be set aside, and returned the following year as property tax rebates.
It drew support from small business coalitions, many Republicans and the populist conservative Tea Party movement. It was blasted by government officials of both political parties in state and local jurisdictions as a dangerous formula during a recession.
Eyman seemed to acknowledge defeat before the first ballot results were in, releasing an early copy of a statement to supporters that the campaign was “proud of all our heroic supporters” regardless of what happened and listing previous victories at the ballot box. The measure failed decisively in Spokane, Whitman, Garfield and Asotin counties as well as those surrounding the Puget Sound.
Social conservatives sought to block expanded legal protections for domestic partnerships that the Legislature approved last spring for same-sex couples and seniors who want to live together without getting married. Those rights were labeled “everything but marriage” in the legislation, but opponents said it essentially allows marriage for same-sex couples.
Approving the referendum means allowing the law to go into effect, while rejecting it blocks the changes.
The measure was narrowly passing at press time but sharply dividing the state. Most counties around the Puget Sound were approving R-71, but the rest of the state’s counties, including Spokane, were strongly rejecting it.
Spokane Proposition 4
Named the Community Bill of Rights by supporters, the measure offered voters the chance to add nine amendments to the Spokane City Charter. But the breadth of the amendments prompted criticism from city officials and business organizations. They said it could saddle the city with costs of guaranteeing health care or make businesses uncompetitive. Most of all, they said, it would spawn lawsuits.
Prop 4 failed nearly 3 to 1 in votes counted Tuesday.
“We think the voters of Spokane realized this is a bad idea,” Brian Murray, a campaign manager for one of the opposition groups, said Tuesday night. Brad Read, of Envision Spokane, said the outcome wasn’t surprising considering opponents heavily outspent them and used dire predictions like “Spokane would cease to exist” if the measure passed.
Spokane Proposition 1
City voters were also asked to approve a $33 million bond issue for new fire engines, equipment and stations. The 10-year bond issue would cost a homeowner $27 for every $100,000 of assessed property value; it’s designed to replace a bond issue passed in 1999 but raises the cost by about $10 per $100,000. It needed a 60 percent supermajority and in Tuesday’s tally had collected only 58.6 percent.
Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said supporters hoped to close the gap in upcoming ballot counts. If that doesn’t work, the Fire Department will try again, but not before meeting with voters and asking them if the department should take a different direction.
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said last week that if the fire bond failed, the city likely would try again in 2010.