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Catching on

The increasingly worn initiative come-on of something for nothing really does seem to be wearing thin this year. Several Washington initiatives which would seem to have generated plenty of support in years past are encountering static this year (foreshadowed, maybe, by the failure of the 2005 gas tax measure). In Oregon, the most recent poll projects failure for the TABOR and term limits measures.

Jim Risch
Jim Risch

And in Idaho, polls show the land-use initiative, Proposition 2 – the followup to Oregon’s troubled Measure 37 – riding on the edge, where once it might have been a presumptive winner. Part of the reason may be the breadth of opposition to it.

Consider today’s press conference (we followed on conference call) set up by Governor Jim Risch at his office. The point it sought to make was made, really, even before anyone spoke. The range of people there present to declare opposition was startling, from business groups to environmental groups to quite a few others. Reflecting on a history of publc gatherings on one side or another of major issues (and Risch has been doing this more than a third of a century), he remarked, “I’ve never seen one as diverse as this group is.” (The next two speakers after him were Republican Senator Brad Little and Democratic Senator David Langhorst.

Risch’s own stance as a backer of private property rights is too extensive to seriously question, so his stance on Prop 2 carries weight: “This proposition does not enhance that . . . I can say that with a considerable degree of confidence.” His main point was that the initiative would destabilize established land and planning practices, deeply upsetting property rights – and that has been precisely the case where Measure 27 has impacted Oregon.

Another bit drew laughter. One question at the conference noted that Proposition 2’s backers said that opponents to the initiative were “liberals.”

Which drew a big laugh from Risch: “I’ve been accused of a lot,” he said, “and now the list is complete.” Which may be one of the more compelling arguments the Pro 2 critics can make: Any movement so detached from reality that it argues Jim Risch is a liberal . . . well, . . .

WASHINGTON ISSUES Idaho’s Proposition 2 still looks like a fairly close call – though momentum seems to be running against it – but as noted above, polling has been showing several key Washington state issues failing. For a solid overview of this, check out the latest University of Washington polling, which projects losses for both Initiative 933 (property rights and land use, comparable to Oregon’s Measure 37 of 2004 and Idaho’s current Proposition 2) by 51%-39%, and Initiative 920 (to repeal the state estate tax) by 53%-32%.

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