Opinion

Two down, three up on measures

Washington voters are asked to do only a moderate amount of legislating this year.

Other than Tim Eyman’s annual mischief-making, two initiatives and two referenda on the Nov. 6 ballot take aim at generally good ends, although we have reservations about one of them.

Eyman’s Initiative 747 would limit the growth of local tax revenue to 1 percent annually or to the level of inflation, whichever is less, without a popular vote. The Review urges readers to vote “No” vote on this issue.

We’re not keen on state limitations of local taxing authority. If folks in one city or county want a higher levels of service and are willing to pay for it, we think they should be free to make that choice without needless encumbrance. Essentially, this measure mandates an expensive and wasteful public vote each year on the budgets of public agencies. We don’t need to hamstring our public officials with the kind of arbitrary shackles Eyman keeps dreaming up.

In the name of improving public health, Initiative 773 would nearly double the present tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products and earmark the revenue for various health programs, principally to increase the number of subsidized slots in the state’s basic health insurance program.

At first glance, this looks like a winner, deterring smoking with a higher price or paying for some of the added health care that smoking requires seems to be worthwhile.

The danger is creating a situation where crime pays, and at some point, taxing a product in demand will create a black market. If we’re not there, a 75 percent increase in tobacco taxes puts us thereabouts. We reluctantly recommend a “No” vote on I-773.

Initiative 775 seeks to improve the availability of home health care for low-income elderly and disabled people by establishing a registry of trained and qualified care-givers.

The plan has generated controversy because it allows such care-givers to unionize and negotiate a contract with the state, which already funds the program.

We take issue with opponents and their anti-labor bent; care recipients would be free to fire an individual caregiver, and could always select those who are not part of the state registry. This measure poses no risk and significant potential benefits for workers, and we recommend a “Yes” vote on I-775.

The two referendums going before voters ought not be controversial. We recommend a “Yes” vote on both.

Referred by the state Senate, ESJR 8208 would allow elected judges from one jurisdiction to be “borrowed” for temporary duty in another court.

Opponents claim that this undermines judges’ “accountability” to those who elected them. But we’ve never been much impressed with the notion that judges should answer to the whims of voters, preferring instead that they show fealty to the law. Vote “Yes.”

The House measure – HJR 4202 – would remove certain restrictions on the investment of state funds to permit a broader range of investments. At present, only 3 percent of state money is subject to those restrictions, and we are not aware of any problems with the remaining 97 percent. Seeing former Secretary of State Ralph Munro’s name among those supporting this measure inspires confidence. Again, we urge readers to vote “Yes.”

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