OLYMPIA -- The Association of Washington Business says it will challenge the proposed ballot title for Referendum 52, the measure that asks voters to approve bonds for a half billion worth of energy retrofits at public schools and colleges.
Dubbed "Hans Bonds" during the late legislative session because they were the brainchild of Rep. Hans Dunshee, the bonds would be sold to pay for energy savings rehabilitation that would save the schools money and create jobs in the lagging construction sector of the economy. Or at least that was the pitch from Dunshee and House Democrats, who finally got the bonds past the Senate late in the special session.
But not until the legislation added a refendum clause, allowing voters to decide whether they want to pay for the bonds by making the now-temporary tax on bottled water permanent, and the source for paying off the bonds.
AWB says the ballot title language should state that very fact, and wants to add "and make the sales tax on bottled water permanent" to the end of the title. The challenge will get a Superior Court hearing laster this month.
UPDATE: Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center notes this afternoon that legislative Democrats can't say they weren't warned that the language would prompt a legal challenge. During debate on the bill, Sen.Linda Parlette, R-Wenatchee, sponsored an amendment to add the language about a permanent water tax to the required ballot title. Democratic Sens. Karen Fraser of Olympia and Lisa Brown of Spokane argued that the tax isn't really permanent because it could be removed at the Legislature at any time.
The amendment failed 16-30. Mercier has posted a clip of the debate on his blog.