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OLYMPIA — A Thurston County Superior Court judge approved new ballot language for Referendum 52, a proposal to sell bonds to pay for environmental upgrades of schools and colleges.
Democrats in the Legislature approved the concept for the bonds, often called Hans bonds because they’d been pushed by Rep. Hans Dunshee, during the session. But paying for the bonds was a problem, because the state was about at its indebtedness limit, so legislators eventually decided to give voters a chance to approve a special source of money: the tax on bottled water that they were describing as temporary.
Republicans wanted the ballot language in the bill to say the bottled water tax would be permanent. Democrats declined, arguing essentially that nothing is truly permanent because the Legislature can always come up with a different formula later. The language in the bill made no mention of the bottled water tax. But it does say the bonds will promote job creation.
The Association of Washington Business appealed, arguing the claim of job creation was “a speculative assertion” and that the use of the tax on bottled water was a core subject of the proposal.
As the Washington Policy Center notes, Judge Carol Murphy rewrote the measure’s description to read thusly:
“This bill would authorize bonds to finance construction and repair projects increasing energy efficiency in public schools and higher education buildings, and continue the sales tax on bottled water otherwise expiring in 2013.”