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Posts published in “Day: October 1, 2007”

The primary rules: Watch this decision

Proceed at risk any time you presume to extrapolate a final ruling from an oral argument and discussion at the U.S. Supreme Court. But today's oral argument on Washington's "top two" primary election law, already posted, is well worth the read - particularly if you're interested in primary election law either in Washington or in Idaho.

One point that jumped out: The justices remain highly concerned about anything that may force people in a political party to associate themselves with someone they'd rather not. (We'd be very interested to learn if there's actually any practical way to do this.)

Consider this comment from justice Antonin Scalia: "We don't know the exact phrasing on the ballot, but we do know that a candidate is allowed to associate himself with a party, but a party is not allowed to disociate itself from the candidate. I am less concerned about the fact that the candidate can't say I'm the -- I'm the no-taxes candidate, than I am about the fact that he can associate himself with the Republican Party or the Democratic Party on the ballot and that party has no opportunity on the ballot to say, we have nothing to do with this person. That it seems to me is a great disadvantage to the parties. . . . And what this system creates is a ballot in which an individual can associate himself with the Republican Party, but on the ballot the Republican Party is unable to dissociate itself from that candidate."

The parties are showing some signs here of trumping the voters.

A quick side note: Judging from the transcript, Attorney General Rob McKenna appeared to show a great deal of grace under pressure. And there was a good deal of pressure.

A dollar too many

We're surely not alone in being a bit thrown by the sheer size of Proposition 1, headed for voter decision next month. It's enormous, but not only that: It's so enormous, and covers so massive a scope of space and time, that estimates are almost useless.

Most often you see $47 billion - that is, yes, billion with a "b" - but depending on how you count, it could amount to as little as $18 billion (that trifling amount) to $160 billion. The proposition's backers estimate $17.8 billion (or $28.5 billion if you factor inflation). Some perspective from a Seattle transit blog: "I know I feel like I'm beating a dead horse here, but we don't know inflation with an accuracy over 50 year periods! The number makes no sense because three years of no inflation could shrink the end number by 20%, and three years of massive inflation could raise it by 50%. We don't know inflation."

And last week, King County Executive Ron Sims - one of the most active public transit backers in the region - threw a bomb into the discussion with his critical guest opinion in the Seattle Times:

If approved, we will see the largest tax increase in state history. Starting in January, car-tab taxes will triple, and the sales tax will be 9.5 percent (10 percent in King County restaurants).

I look at this package with the knowledge that in 50 years, my oldest son will be 80 when it's paid off. My granddaughter will be 55. Their ability to make public investments relevant to their lives and times will be severely limited by this package. Should I be so lucky, I will use my pension until I am 110 years old to pay my share!

The benefits of this package are far from immediate. Even if on schedule, 60 percent of new light rail won't open until 2027. Light rail across Lake Washington is at least 14 years away. The Northgate extension is 11 years away.