Matt Crowley/The AS Review
A number of initiatives on this year’s ballot look to not only affect Washington and its infrastructure as a whole, but could have far-reaching effects on education as well.
The items in question, Initiatives 1098, 1100, 1105 and 1107, along with Referendum 52 are all very diverse. They deal with liquor, candy, state income taxes and building codes. In the end, they all look toward aiding the schools and universities that have been hit hardest by Washington’s economic downturn.
I-1098, arguably one of the most divisive on the ballot, would establish an income tax, something that proponents have tried and failed to do as far back as the 1920s. The tax, however, would only affect those with an adjusted gross income over $200,000 for individuals, and over $400,000 for joint filers, such as married couples. Although the reach of the tax is limited, it could still mean a lot of much-needed revenue for the state.
“The way the initiative is written, 70 percent of that money is supposed to go toward education,” said AS Elections Coordinator Remy Levin. “So besides helping the state stem its budget gap, it should also generate a bunch of money for education as well.”
Help for education is not necessarily a guarantee, however.
“Some people think the government will shift money spent on education to other things, and I think that’s a fair argument,” said Levin. “It’s debatable how much it will or will not happen.”
Initiatives 1100 and 1105 both deal with liquor sales in Washington, and on paper appear very similar. According to the Washington secretary of state website, I-1100 would “close state liquor stores; authorize sale, distribution and importation of spirits by private parties; and repeal certain requirements that govern the business operations of beer and wine distributors and producers.” I-1105 uses similar language in constructing their measure, but are the two really the same?
The topic was one of the subjects of an Oct. 7 panel discussion of ballot initiatives organized by the AS Representation and Engagement Programs.
“One of the most obvious conclusions of the ballot initiative panel is, if you’re going to vote for privatizing liquor, vote for 1100, not 1105,” Levin said. “1105 is a terrible initiative that was put on there by some liquor distributors. It just gives them a bunch of giveaways.”
Privatizing liquor in Washington would not only make it more available, but cheaper as well. In the case of 1100, the privatization would mean “several hundred million” less dollars for the state, and possibly education, according to Levin.
“The opponents of 1100 say, oh, we’re going to lose $900 million in sales,” said Levin. “But the reality of the matter is, if prices go down…it means higher sales of liquor and the state is going to make more money from taxes. So it won’t lose all of the $900 million.”
I-1107 is one of the most confusing of all the ballot items, but will also likely have the least impact. I-1107 would essentially end sales taxes on soda, candy and bottled water, meaning less money for the state.
“The state is slated to generate about $100 million from those taxes,” said Levin. According to Levin, proponents of the bill want to see the taxes done away with because they don’t like taxes on food.
“Basically the idea of 1107 is, the legislature needed to raise taxes, it taxed soda, candy and bottled water, and there’s anti-tax activists in the state that don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said.
But even if the fiscal impact for the state as a whole isn’t that great, the government could redirect funds from education to make up for the lost ground. But all of that, says Levin, is just “conjecture.”
Last but not least is Referendum 52. To clarify, referendums and initiatives work in different ways. An initiative begins with citizens, usually in the form of a petition which, after it gets a certain amount of signatures, makes its way to the ballot. The referendum, however, is brought to the ballot by state legislators.
Besides looking to do away with harmful toxins like mold and asbestos that exist in schools across the state, R-52 “demands money-saving energy upgrades that reduce overall operating costs, keeping money in classrooms, not maintenance,” according to healthyschoolsforwa.org. Proponents of the referendum hope that will not only mean healthier, more inexpensive schools, but more jobs as well. Estimates say over 30,000 jobs could be created to help clean up classrooms and campuses from the peninsula to the Tri-Cities.