October 12, 2010 in City

Washington ballot measures: State government changes

The Spokesman-Review
 

Washington voters have a near record number of initiatives on this fall’s ballot, giving them choices on raising taxes, paying taxes, buying liquor and providing for workers’ industrial insurance.

Here’s a look at the state government changes ballot measures.

• I-1082: Would add private carriers to the current system of state industrial insurance – often called workers’ compensation – that is run by the state except for large employers who choose to self-insure. Such a system, sometimes called “three-way” industrial insurance, has been introduced in various forms in the Legislature in the past but never cleared both houses.

Supported by: Building Industry Association of Washington, Association of Washington Business, National Federation of Independent Business, several large insurance carriers including AIG.

Opposed by: State Labor Council, trial lawyers, state employee unions, Teamsters, trade and craft unions

Campaign so far: “Yes” campaign has raised $2.5 million and spent $960,000. Supporters say this is a way to control regular increases in state industrial insurance rates by adding competition into a system that is all but a state monopoly. “No” campaign has raised $2.2 million and spent $287,000; opponents say it’s a way to help the big insurance companies who would sell the policies, and that the current system provides good benefits at a low cost to workers.

• I-1100: One of two proposals to close state-operated liquor stores and turn sales and distribution of liquor over to the private sector and allow sales in most places that currently sell beer and wine. Sometimes called the “Costco initiative” because the discount giant contributed employee time to gather signatures, it would allow some large retailers to set up their own distribution systems.

Supported by: Costco, Safeway, Wal-Mart

Opposed by: national and state beer distributors, wine distributors, out-of-state liquor distributors, state employees unions.

Campaign so far: “Yes” campaign has raised $2.6 million and spent $1.7 million. The campaign is trying to differentiate this initiative from I-1105, urging a yes on the first and a no on the second, arguing that I-1100 provides more options for consumers and greater safeguards. Opponents have raised $6.4 million and spent $3.4 million; they argue that moving liquor out of state stores will increase consumption and lead to more underage drinking and drunken-driving accidents; supporters argue that’s not the case, and each side produces statistics to bolster its point. Joining the “no” campaign are some cities that fear the loss of some tax revenue.

• I-1105: One of two proposals to close state-operated liquor stores and turn sales and distribution over to the private sector, allowing sales in most places that currently sell beer and wine. Unlike I-1100, this initiative would set up a three-tier system in which production, distribution and sales would be separate. The state currently controls distribution and sales.

Supported by: Odom Southern Holdings LLC of Bellevue and Young’s Market Co. of Los Angeles provided all money so far.

Opposed by: state employees unions, which represent workers in the current system, some state wineries and microbreweries, the Yes on I-1100 campaign.

Campaign so far: “Yes” campaign raised and spent $2.4 million in signature gathering process, nothing since. Some opponents, including state employees unions, beer distributors and local governments, oppose both liquor privatizing initiatives together; Yes on 1100 campaign tries to differentiate to defeat this proposal while passing the other because they want to handle their own distribution.

• Referendum 52: Would allow the state to sell bonds, backed by a tax on bottled water or the general fund, depending on the outcome of I-1107, with the proceeds used to make environmental improvements to public schools and state colleges. Sometimes called “Hans bonds” for the prime sponsor of the legislation, state Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish. State would sell bonds totaling $505 million over five years, to be paid back over 29 years; estimated cost with interest would be $937 million.

Supported by: building trade unions, teachers union, state employees, McKinstry Essention Inc., a building construction and rehabilitation firm.

Opposed by: legislative opponents of the referendum.

Campaign so far: Legislative Republicans were solidly opposed to this proposal during the session, and Senate Democrats would only go along with a guaranteed funding source, which became the extension of the bottled water tax set to expire in 2013.

• Resolution 4220: In the wake of a series of law-enforcement deaths in the Puget Sound area late last year, the Legislature passed a series of laws including one to make it possible for a person charged with a crime punishable by life imprisonment to be held without bail. Under current law, only persons facing a charge punishable by execution can be held without bond while awaiting trial.

Supported by: legislators who backed the measure, police and prosecutor organizations.

No organized opposition.

Campaign so far: Supporters say this provides added protections against dangerous criminals; opponents argue that it ignores the presumption of innocence every defendant is entitled to.

• Resolution 8225: This would change the state constitution to change the way the state calculates its debt, which determines how much it can sell in bonds. Supporters call it a way to reduce the amount of interest the state pays for bonds; opponents say it’s an accounting gimmick that will allow the state to take on more debt. There’s no organized support or opposition.

City of Spokane

• Proposition 1: Backers of the proposed Children’s Investment Fund want to attack Spokane’s dismal 29 percent high school dropout rate with a series of programs designed to promote early childhood education and intervention programs.

The six-year levy would raise $5 million annually and cost property owners in the city of Spokane about 35 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The money would be used to support early childhood learning, abuse and neglect prevention and treatment programs, mentoring programs, and before- and after-school activities.

Studies show students who fail to graduate are more likely to end up in jail, add to the strain on social services and be unemployed.

If approved by voters, the measure calls for creation of an 11-person oversight committee, made up of representatives from different city zones, minority groups and youth, to make spending decisions. Committee members would be appointed by the Spokane mayor and City Council.

Organizations would be awarded grants through a competitive application process.

Supporters argue that the dedicated funding would strengthen the entire community by improving services for kids and, eventually, reversing the city’s high dropout rate.

Critics point to higher property taxes at a time when average household incomes are dropping, and that voters won’t get a chance to weigh in on the effort for at least six years.

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