Several statewide initiatives will be decided in the Nov. 8 general election. Here are our recommendations for three of them:
I-1464, Campaign Financing
Initiative 1464 aims to make sweeping reforms to the state’s campaign financing system. While we believe the goal is noble, we don’t like the strategy behind it.
We oppose I-1464. The surface talk sounds great, but digging deeper we found the financial ramifications of this proposal are too risky to support.
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Proponents of the initiative want to create a publicly funded voucher system for political contributions, providing voters with three $50 Democracy Credits that they can spend in state races.
The idea is modeled after a program Seattle voters approved last year, agreeing to raise property taxes so residents could get four $25 vouchers that could be contributed to candidates running in city races. Those candidates who accept the vouchers can turn them into cash for their campaigns, but then must abide by certain rules.
Instead of increasing property taxes like in Seattle, I-1464 would pay for the state program by repealing the nonresident sales tax exemption for shoppers from states such as Oregon, which does not have a sales tax.
Proponents of the plan call this closing a tax loophole. We call it an unfair way to pay for a statewide experiment.
Retail stores in Washington border towns would take a significantly bigger hit than other businesses and suffer more from the consequences.
The idea behind allowing this particular sales-tax exemption is to encourage out-of-state shoppers to buy goods in Washington. If they have to pay a sales tax, they might not bother to shop across state lines.
Any decision to drop such a long-established system should be vetted thoroughly, and not buried in the language of an initiative.
In addition, the new voucher system in Seattle goes into effect in 2017, and we would like to see how it works there before a similar program is applied statewide.
We understand the concern that the political process is too often manipulated by wealthy individuals and corporations. And there is an appeal to providing financial power to average citizens who would like to be more involved in the political process.
But this initiative is not the answer, especially with the concerns we have over the inequitable way proponents want to fund it.
The Tri-City Herald opposes I-1464, on Campaign Finance Reform.
I-735, Corporation Rights
On another campaign finance issue, however, we offer our support.
Initiative 735 is part of a grassroots movement urging a federal constitutional amendment to limit the amount of money large corporations spend on political campaigns.
The proposal is being driven by the Washington Coalition to Amend the Constitution and has strong bipartisan support throughout the state.
Six years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations, unions and special interest groups can spend unlimited amounts in political races. According to proponents, this has led to an “obscene” amount being donated by wealthy contributors seeking influence over candidates. It also pushes the average voter out of the conversation.
They say the only way to overturn the Supreme Court ruling is through the amendment process. So, I-735 urges our congressional delegation to propose that constitutional rights belong only to individuals — not corporations — and that spending money is not free speech under the First Amendment.
The initiative also says that governments would be fully “empowered” to regulate political contributions and expenditures to prevent undue influence and asks for transparency and full disclosure of that information.
There are no penalties if this initiative is approved and our state lawmakers choose to ignore it. Supporters are hoping, though, that public pressure would be enough to get them to act.
The concern is that many legislators rely on large contributors to help finance their campaigns, and they may not want to limit their donors. A movement by the people appears to be the only way to encourage a change.
This is an initiative we can back, and we hope it gets lawmakers’ attention.
The Tri-City Herald supports I-735, overturning Citizens United.
I-1501, Public Records
Initiative 1501 is titled “Washington Increased Penalties for Crimes Against Vulnerable Individuals.”
Don’t let the heading fool you.
This initiative has less to do with protecting people and more to do with a union’s attempt to keep its members.
Part of the proposal is reasonable. It would increase criminal penalties for identity thefts against senior citizens and vulnerable adults, which is easy to agree with.
But that’s only the hook.
The true reason behind the initiative can be found in the last lines of the proposal, where it says it would “amend the Public Records Act” to prohibit disclosing information, such as names, addresses and telephone numbers of “vulnerable individuals and their in-home caregivers.”
The Freedom Foundation has been trying to contact home health care workers so it can tell them they can leave their union and stop paying dues, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2014.
The organization legally filed a public records request to get the contact information of those in-home caregivers so it could relay the information, but the Service Employee International Union sued to thwart the attempt.
The SEIU has been unsuccessful in the courts, however, so this initiative is just another way for it to try and block the Freedom Foundation’s efforts.
We cannot abide such blatant disregard for worker rights, open records or this selfish use of the initiative process.
This proposal is deceitful and wrong.
The Tri-City Herald opposes I-1501, changing the Public Records Act.
Look for our recommendation Sunday in the 9th District House race between Republican Rep. Mary Dye and Democrat challenger Jennifer Goulet.