Pro-business group lambastes measure


Report says proposal would drive costs up and jobs out; supporter says study misreads bill of rights

A pro-business research group is blasting a measure on the Spokane ballot, contending it could cost the city millions for health and housing services, spawn expensive litigation and drive out jobs.

“Many of these provisions are aimed directly at curtailing the rights of business owners and developers within the City of Spokane,” the Washington Policy Center, based in Seattle and Olympia, says in a report released this week.

But the board chairman of Envision Spokane, the group supporting Proposition 4, says the study is “heavily biased” and misreads the language of the proposed charter amendment to come up with inaccurate figures.

“It has no connection to reality,” said Brad Read. Envision Spokane hosted the meetings in which the ballot proposal was drafted.

The study echoes some of the criticism of Spokane-area business groups who have formed two opposition committees and raised more than $100,000 to campaign against Proposition 4.

The study says one of the charter amendments in Prop 4 could cost the city as much as $20 million a year by creating a new “entitlement” to health care for an estimated 23,000 uninsured city residents.

“Although the proposal does not specify that the city must pay those costs, it does require that the city guarantee those services and that they are affordable, which assumes that any cost deemed not affordable must be borne by these clinics or by taxpayers,” says the study, written by Abby Burlingame and Carl Gipson.

Read argued the proposal doesn’t require the city to pay anything, only that it coordinate a program so that residents can pay for health care.

The ballot language doesn’t contain the full text of the proposal, also known as the “Community Bill of Rights.” The second right, in the full text, offers ammunition to both sides.

“Residents have the right to affordable preventive health care. For residents unable to access such care, the City shall guarantee such access by coordinating with area health care providers to create affordable fee-for-services programs within 18 months following the adoption of this charter provision,” it says.

The policy center study says the ballot language is so vague that voters could be fooled into approving something they don’t understand. Read said the study is an attempt to mislead the voters, which the Envision Spokane campaign will try to counter by giving voters the full language of the proposal.

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