Talk about taking the initiative.
The average Washington voter can be forgiven if he or she forgets their PIN at the ATM or their locker combination at the gym. There are a lot of four-digit numbers being rattled off in popular lexicon these days.
Most of the initiatives – many generated by professional signature-gatherers and big businesses – have to do with taxes, either paying more or less. Some involve liquor sales. Another attempts to tackle workers’ insurance criteria.
Here’s the long and short of it all...
What it says: This proposal, by perennial initiative writer Tim Eyman, would revive the two-thirds majority vote needed in the state Legislature for tax increases. It would also new or increased fees would require a majority legislative approval.
Those in favor say: This initiative was initially passed by voters and suspended after two years by the Democratically-controlled Legislature in order to pass a series of tax measures in order to balance the budget. The idea is to restore what voters always intended, say proponents like the Spokane County Republican Party.
What opponents say: A minority vote could block the passage of laws, which could include tax increases. A more than 50-percent vote is more indicative of true democracy. And if you don’t like the laws your legislator supports, you’re welcome to vote them out the next time he or she is up for re-election.
What it says: If approved, this measure would authorize employers to purchase private industrial insurance beginning in 2012 and direct the Legislature to come up with conforming laws. It would also eliminate the worker-paid share of medical-benefit premiums.
Those in favor say: More competition by allowing private insurers would mean less cost – at least according to the several large insurance carriers who are bankrolling the measure to the ballot.
What opponents say: If the system isn’t broken, a “fix” shouldn’t be brought in by big insurance companies would benefit the most. Right now, Washington is one of the 15 cheapest states for industrial insurance.
What it says: If passed, 1098 would do something new in Washington state – establish an income tax – by taxing “adjusted gross income” above $200,000 for individuals and $400,000 for joint filers, reduce sales property tax levies and B&O taxes, and direct any increased revenue toward education and health.
Those in favor say: The wealthiest among Washingtonians – 1.2 percent – should pay a greater share in readjusting the tax burden, which helps the middle class and low-income folks.
What opponents say: The rich are punished, tax wise, for having more money. And there’s no reason to believe in two years that the income tax wouldn’t be broadened to those who make less.
I-1100 and 1105
What it says: The first of two liquor initiatives, if passed it would close all state liquor stores and license private parties to sell and distribute spirits. The difference between the two initiatives is that 1105 is similar, but it would retain the existing distribution networks, which bring some money to the state.
Those in favor say: The state has no business in the liquor sales business and that it makes no sense that you can’t buy a bottle of Jack Daniels at Costco (which supports 1100) or at the local Albertson’s, like you can in many other states. Competition, too, would likely bring the cost down (although the pre-existing taxes would remain) to where prices would more likely align with Idaho and other states.
What opponents say: The state definitely does have a stake in regulating potentially dangerous substances, and expanding the sale of liquor could possible exacerbate its related problems like DUIs and underage drinking. Plus, tax dollars from liquor sales that fund many state and local programs would evaporate. An interesting side note: No one is quite sure, though it would likely involve some sort of legislative compromise, what will happen if both initiatives are approved by voters.
What it says: This initiative would roll back several 2010 tax amendments passed by the Legislature, such as the sales tax on candy, bottled water and soda. It would also reduce the tax rates for certain food processors.
Those in favor say: That taxing certain foods over others – even if those foods aren’t necessarily good for you – is unfair. Worse, the law is poorly written so some candy is taxed while others are not.
What opponents say: Health experts say anything to get people cut down on processed sugars in candy and carbonated beverages isn’t necessarily bad and that the extra funding generated are a natural extension of the “sin taxes” that already exist on alcohol and tobacco.
What it says: If passed, the resolution would allow the state to sell bonds, backed by a tax on bottled water – or by the general fund, depending on what happens with I-1107. The money would be used for energy efficiency projects to schools and state colleges.
Those in favor say: The state would sell bonds totaling over $505 million over five years to be paid back over 29 years.
What opponents say: Legislative opponents say taxpayers don’t need something else – or another tax – at this time.
What it says: In a nutshell, this would change the state constitution in how it deals with debt, and how much the state can sell in bonds.
Those in favor say: The resolution will reduce the amount of interest the state pays for bonds.
What opponents say: The resolution could make it easier for the state to take on more debt.
What it says: The Legislature has proposed a constitutional amendment that would deny bail for persons charged with certain crimes, particularly those that could result in life imprisonment. Right now, only persons facing a charge that could mean execution can be held without bond while awaiting trial.
Those in favor say: It give more teeth to law enforcement and makes it less likely for a suspect to escape justice by posting bail before going to court.
What opponents say: It strips power from judges, and ignores the presumption of innocence before guilt is proven.
The Spokane County Elections Office has mailed ballots to registered voters. They must be returned or postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 2.