Referendum 52: Vote no

October 13, 2010 

Unlike a lot of the feel-good measures that end up on statewide ballots, Referendum 52 at least includes a way to pay for itself.

It's just not a very good way.

The plan -- raise the state's debt limit and issue $505 million in state general obligation bonds for "green" energy projects at public schools -- has some appeal.

In some cases, the upgrades at schools and colleges could result in enough energy savings to pay for themselves over time. In others, the improvements to dilapidated buildings would make classrooms a lot more comfortable for staff and students.

But this referendum is a case of good intentions leading to bad legislation.

Take the funding mechanism. The measure would take the sales tax on bottled water, which is due to expire July 1, 2013, make it permanent and earmark the money to pay off the new debt.

But permanence isn't guaranteed. If voters approve Initiative 1107 this year, the tax goes away sooner rather than later.

Or maybe people will start drinking tap water instead. Regardless, the debt doesn't go away. Any shortfall would have to be paid out of the general fund, which would mean less money for everything else state government does.

No doubt, some worthy energy-saving projects at Washington's schools and colleges deserve funding, but increasing the state's debt by more than $500 million is not the answer.

* The Herald editorial board recommends voters reject Referendum 52.

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service