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Informed Voter Guide 2013

IVG 2013
    

This November, Washington state voters will choose thousands of elected officials and decide on seven statewide ballot measures and some local measures, too. Freedom Foundation cannot tell you how to vote, but we can help you make up your own mind by giving you information. That’s what the Informed Voter Guide is all about. Want to do more? We need volunteers to help distribute copies of the guide in their local coffee shop, at church, door-to-door, in the gym, wherever!

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Local Ballot Measures


Pasco, WA

Proposition 1: Reduction of city limits

Description: Removes from Pasco city limits land and residents who were recently annexed into the city without a vote.
Impact: The process of annexation without a vote will be repudiated if this measure passes, and the effected citizens will once more be outside the city of Pasco.

Proposition 2: Changing the plan of government

Description: Changes Pasco from a “Council-Manager” form of government to a “Mayor-Council” form of government. Impact: The city’s chief administrator would be an elected mayor rather than a manager appointed by the city council. Because citizens would elect the Mayor, this change establishes a more direct link between the citizens and the city’s administrative officials and their actions.


Seattle, WA

Proposition 1: Public financing of campaigns

Description: Proposition 1 creates a program of taxpayer-funded elections for Seattle City Council candidates. The program, which could provide as much as $210,000 to each qualifying candidate, would be funded with a property tax increase of $2 million per year. Impact: Proposition 1 would use tax funds for campaign spending, essentially forcing citizens to fund campaigns even if they disagree with one or all of the candidates. Proponents argue that more candidates could run and that special interests would have less power in elections, while opponents point out that special interests will always be present in proportion to the power of government itself.


SeaTac, WA

Proposition 1: Raising the minimum wage


Description: Proposition 1 creates a set of employment regulations for certain SeaTac employers in the hospitality and transportation industries. Proposition 1 (1) mandates a $15 minimum wage, (2) requires employers to provide paid sick leave, (3) directs businesses to give additional time to current part-time staff before hiring additional part-time workers, (4) requires airport businesses with a new contract to give hiring preferences to employees who worked for the previous employer, and (5) directs businesses to maintain extensive new records about wages, sick leave, and benefits. Any person may bring legal action against any employer for violating the initiative. Any of the provisions of the initiative may only be waived in a union contract. Impact: Proponents claim that Prop. 1 will boost SeaTac’s economy by providing greater pay and job security to workers. Opponents contend that the extensive new regulations would harm businesses and discourage employment. The City of SeaTac would occupy a prominent role in enforcing the initiative at an unknown cost. Some of the requirements could limit workplace flexibility for workers and employers. Employers would be more likely to face legal action, and non-union workplaces would be given incentives to unionize.


Bellingham, WA

Measure pulled from ballot by court.


A citizen initiative to prevent coal transport through Bellingham was submitted for the ballot, but a court granted the city an injunction to block the measure from going to the ballot. In addition to the measure’s impact on coal transport through Bellingham, the measure’s hardline environmentalist proponents wanted to allow any city resident to sue on behalf of nature:
“Natural communities and ecosystems … possess inalienable and fundamental rights to exist and flourish within the City of Bellingham. Residents of the City of Bellingham … shall possess legal standing to enforce those rights on behalf of those natural communities and ecosystems.”

Advisory Votes


Substitute Senate Bill 5444

Eliminating a property tax credit.
Taxpayers who lease publicly-owned property will no longer receive a credit on excise tax, a tax placed on using or consuming certain goods and services. By removing the credit, state and local governments are projected to collect $300,000 more from taxpayers each year. Eight of 147 Legislators voted “no.”


Senate Bill 5627

Adding an aircraft excise tax on commuter air carriers in lieu of property tax.
“Commuter air carriers” refer to planes on privately-owned property that carry passengers on at least five scheduled round-trip flights per week. These carriers will now pay an excise tax on their flight services instead of paying a personal property tax on the plane itself. The excise tax will range from $500 to $4,000, depending on the airplane’s weight. The state is projected to receive roughly $40,000 more per year. Thirty of 147 Legislators voted “no.”


Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1846

Extending an insurance premium tax for pediatric oral services.
Children’s dental care providers are now included under the insurance premium tax, meaning that more dental services for children will be taxed. The state expects to receive more revenue because adding children’s dental care will expand the insurance premium tax to an area of healthcare that wasn’t taxed previously. One of 147 Legislators voted “no.”


Second Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1971

Ending a tax exemption for certain telephone services.
Residential telephone services will no longer pay sales tax, but owners of prepaid wireless phones are now obligated to pay taxes on 911 calls. This bill also lowers taxes by repealing a special excise tax on each switch phone line in the state. The state anticipates a $40 million revenue increase per year. Thirty-six of 147 Legislators voted “no.”



Engrossed House Bill 2075

Expanding a tax on estates and increasing the rate of the tax.
Estate holders will now pay an estate tax on property transfers. Furthermore, if the estate is worth more than $4 million, estate holders will pay an additional one percent in taxes. These new taxes will bring the state roughly $47 million more per year. Fifty-two of 147 Legislators voted “no.”


Statewide Ballot Measures

Initiative 517

The Initiative about Initiatives and Referendums

Description:

If passed, I-517 would give citizens 16 months instead of 10 months for filing an initiative and will provide
up to six more months for initiative signature gathering. It establishes new penalties for interfering with
collecting signatures, grants protection from retaliating against or stalking signature gatherers, and gives
legal protection to signature-gathering activity in all pedestrian walkways. More local policies would be
subject to the local initiative power. When enoughsignatures have been gathered for a state or local
petition, elected or appointed officials cannot keep the measure off the ballot.

Impact:

Expanding the time and space for signature gathering will make it easier to get an initiative or referendum
on the ballot. The process of gathering signatures would also be easier because of the new protections for
signature gatherers. Legal challenges against a ballot measure would be less likely to keep it off the ballot,
but could still be brought after the election.



Initiative 522

Labeling Genetically Modified Foods

Description:

“Genetically modified” food comes from a plant or animal where the genetic material has been changed,
either by directly inserting genes or using “cell fusion” to encourage cells to multiply or recombine.
I-522 authorizes the Department of Health to impose fines of up to $1,000 per day for failing to label
genetically modified agricultural commodities, processed foods, or seed stock. Citizens could sue to
enforce the measure and would be reimbursed for their legal costs if they won. The measure would
take effect in July 2015.

Impact:

If I-522 passes, many businesses selling food and food ingredients will face new, state-specific
labeling requirements.This requirement would likely apply to a vast amount of everyday foods
that contain, or might contain, some genetically modified ingredients. This would not affect existing
federal food labeling laws, which, for example, require that foods labeled “organic” cannot contain
genetically modified ingredients. The provision allowing lawsuits would create a new area of
Washington State tort law.
 

Questions for Local Government Candidates.


Property Rights

1.
How will you balance environmental protection with the rights of property owners?
2.
Under what circumstances would you support the use of eminent domain?
3.
How will you approach critical areas and shoreline updates for your jurisdiction? How will you work with the WA Department of Ecology?

4.
Should property owners be compensated for government regulations that restrict their use of private property? How?

5.
Do you support the use of aerial photography for surveillance of property owners? And, if elected, would you continue funding aerial photography?

6.
Do you support the use of unmanned surveillance aircraft in your jurisdiction?
If so, for what purpose?












Taxes and Spending

1.
Do you plan to reduce debt in your local government? How?
2.
Do you plan to reduce spending in your local government? How?
3.
Are you in favor of raising taxes? If so, which ones and how much?
4.
Do you plan to reduce your local government’s reliance on state and federal money? How?
5.
How will you make the local budget and budget-planning process more transparent?
6.
How will you manage the escalating costs of employees?




Questions for School Board Candidates


1.
What is the role of directors, and does it include pursuing changes in the operations, personnel practices and services of the school district?

2.
The Legislature has supplied a significant number of new resources for the district. What is your top priority for spending any new discretionary funds?

3.
To what extent should levy funds be used to enhance the wages and benefits of those school employees who receive a salary from the state?

4.
Do you view Skills Centers, the Running Start program, alternative learning programs, online options, and charter schools as enhancing or detracting from public education?

5.
Do you believe measured student learning growth should be a factor in evaluating educators?
6.
What are your thoughts about half- days and shortened school years?
7.
Would you support or oppose offering the community a charter school?
8.
What causes dropouts and what can be done to improve the on-time high school completion rate?
9.
What should the district’s policy be for students who are unable to read by the end of third grade?
10.
Would you support strengthening district managers’ ability to retain, assign, or enhance the wages of employees based upon factors other than seniority?

11.
What can be done to improve family involvement and responsibility for a child’s education?
12.
If the district goes to the public for a levy, should the board pass a resolution committing the resources to specific purposes or leave flexibility for the possible uses of the funds?

13.
If you could implement one reform within existing resources by reprioritizing funds and staff time, what would your priority reform be?

14.
Should employees be forced to pay the union as a condition of employment?