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Posts tagged as “Washington state”

First take/WAgov

Considering that the last run for governor in Washington was fairly close, and Democratic incumbent Jay Inlee's favorables fall short of inspiring awe, Republicans have had a hard time finding a top-rank candidate to run against him next year. There's been talk that Dave Reichert, the Republican representative from the swingy 8th district, might do it, and Reichert has indicated some interest; but then Reichert often has been mentioned for various high offices, and always seems to pull back. The only Republican actually in the race is Bill Bryant, a Port of Seattle commissioner - and about as well known statewide as that might lead you to expect. Notwithstanding, he has gotten endorsed within the last week by two of the top Republican figures in the state, former three-term Governor Dan Evans and former Senator Slade Gorton. You might reasonably read their endorsements as a signal, that Republicans are unlikely to get a higher-profile person to run for governor next year. That would be unusual, because Republicans in Washington - unlike Oregon - have in recent years generally been able to find prominent and highly-skilled and experienced Republicans to run for governor (Rob McKenna, Dino Rossi). Could they be going the way of Oregon Republicans? - rs

First take

The Washington Secretary of State office reports a runoff election for an open seat in a House district bordering Idaho: "The 34 counties that conducted a primary this year certified their returns on Tuesday. Statewide, about 818,000 ballots were counted, or 24.4 percent, about average for an off-year primary with no statewide races or issues on the ballot. One interesting angle is that an automatic recount shaped up in the special election in the 9th District House race in six Eastern Washington counties (Adams, Spokane, Asotin, Garfield, Franklin and Whitman). Richard Lathim, R, finished just 47 votes ahead of Kenneth Caylor, D, for the second runoff spot for the General Election. The difference of 0.48 percent triggered the state’s automatic recount law (if it’s under 2,000 votes and less than one-half of 1 percent separating two candidates for either the first or second place spot). Secretary Wyman will certify the election on Thursday, and the recount will be ordered at that time. The recount can begin as early as Friday. If Lathim retains his lead, he would face Mary Dye, a fellow Republican who was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Susan Fagan. Under the Top 2 system, occasionally two people with the same party preference make it through to the General Election, usually in one-party districts such as Seattle or Eastern Washington. Last year, the 4th Congressional District also had an all-GOP final." Two considerations: one, that the Republican remains highly likely to win in November; two, that a Democrat was actually able to make it something of a contest this time. - rs (photo/Charles Knowles)

On the ballot

Inititiaves are rolling in for the Washington ballot. A report just in from David Ammons of the Washington Secretary of State's office.

Two citizen initiative campaign submitted boxloads of petitions by the Friday deadline, and both appear to have an excellent shot at making the statewide ballot this fall.

Tim Eyman, the state’s most prominent use of the initiative process, turned in what he and co-sponsors Jack and Mike Fagan estimated at at least 334,000 signatures for their Initiative 1366. That measure would direct the Legislature to place a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot for ratification — or face a 1-cent reduction in the state’s 6.5-cent sales tax.

The State Supreme Court previously overturned an earlier Eyman initiative to require a two-thirds vote in both houses to approve tax hikes in Olympia. The only way to overcome that ruling would be to amend the state Constitution. Voters can’t amend by initiative; it must originate in the Legislature, with two-thirds votes in both chambers. I-1366 would provide an incentive — a potential $1 billion annual revenue loss — for lawmakers to place it on the ballot.

The other measure, Initiative 1401, is backed by billionaire Microsoft co-founder and Seahawks owner Paul Allen. It would expand state authority over combatting trafficking of endangered species and their parts. It would make selling, purchasing, trading, or distributing endangered animals and products containing such species, a gross misdemeanor or class-C felony, with exemptions for certain types of transfers.

Their backers brought in an estimated 349,000 signatures on Wednesday.

If history is a guide, both measures are likely to make the fall ballot. The bare minimum is 246,372 valid signatures of registered Washington voters. To cover duplicates or invalid signatures, the state Elections Division always recommends submitting about 325,000 to be on the safe side.

Both sets of petitions will undergo a page-by-page inspection, including a preliminary fraud check, and then go to the State Archives for imaging. When images return, the Elections work crew will compile them into volumes and prepare for random-sampling of 3 percent of the signatures to see if they match those on file for registered voters. Actual scrutiny of the sample will begin about July 13 and should be complete by the week of the 20th.

I-1033, TABOR and some math

On Thursday initiative developer Tim Eyman turned around 314,000 signatures to put his latest measure on the ballot. The secretary of state's office indicates it is likely to be the only citizen initiative on the ballot, which could be a plus: Rather than fade into a fog of issues, this one is likely to stick out and get some attention.

It ought to. Voters will have the opportunity to check it out, and they shouldn't like what they see - a measure not identical but comparable to one that seriously damaged one state (Colorado) and was subsequently suspended by the voters there (in 2005), and to a clutch of ballot measures which since have been rejected by a bunch of other states, including Oregon. Which, like Washington, has had some history of friendliness toward many anti-tax measures, which 1033 is. (There were also rejections in Maine and Nebraska, and many others didn't make the ballot.)

Eyman's pitch on the measure is simple: "The Lower Property Taxes Initiative substantially reduces property taxes by controlling the growth of government. 1033 says that the growth rate of state, county, and city general fund revenue cannot exceed the inflation rate plus population growth. Revenues collected above the limit will reduce property taxes. Not only does 1033 provide meaningful property tax relief, but it stops politicians from shifting the tax burden by raising taxes someplace else. 1033 provides ‘net’ property tax relief."

This essentially is the same as TABOR, the "Taxpayers Bill of Rights," which Colorado voters adopted. And then, as we posted in November 2005: "In that state, services have been strapped and fees have risen to the breaking point. That assessment might be taken as the wailing of government burteaucrats except for what happened Tuesday: Statewide voters decided, 52%-48%, to in effect - for a five-year stretch - throw out TABOR restrictions and increase state budgets, and their own taxes. That action had been endorsed by the conservative Republican governor, Bill Owers, who said that TABOR restrictions had put the state in an untemable position."

The best single piece we've spotted on 1033 so far is a new piece in Horse's Ass, the liberal blog with, to be sure, no enthusiasm for Eyman (the blog's name derives from the founder's preferred title for Eyman). It's worth a read, most specifically for one point.

Eyman's logic on budgeting initially sounds sensible: If government costs are limited to inflation plus population growth, shouldn't that be enough? It's easy logic to accept, and not many people have been able to break down the problem with it. (In Oregon, activist Steve Novick is one of the few to do it well.) Horse's Ass quotes a report explaining why the formula doesn't work:

But researchers long have recognized that the services provided in the public sector, such as education, health care, and law enforcement, tend to rise in cost faster than many other goods and services in the economy in general. This analysis was first put forward by economist William Baumol, who pointed out that technology and productivity gains may make goods cheaper to produce, but the services that government provides are different. Baumol said public services typically rely heavily on well-trained professionals — teachers, police officers, doctors and nurses, and so on — and technology gains do not make these services cheaper to provide. It may take far fewer workers to build an automobile than it did 30 years ago, but it still takes one teacher to lead a classroom of children. (In fact, as education has become increasingly important, the trend is toward more teachers per pupil, not fewer.) Doctors generally still see patients one by one, and nursing care remains labor intensive despite technology.

You can look at areas from law enforcement and corrections to colleges and health inspectors to see the problem: The cost of these kind of services rises faster than the overall rate of inflation.

Conveying that point will be the challenge facing the initiative's opponents.

Locke to Commerce, between the lines


Gary Locke

Assuming that today's news reports are right and former Washington Governor Gary Locke will be President Barack Obama's third choice - does he break the jinx? - for commerce secretary, what lessons might come out of that? What would it mean that Locke, out of active politics for more than four years and never a major national figure, is the nominee for a cabinet seat in the middle of economic catastrophe? And does it indicate anything about Washington, or the Northwest?

Those answers may appear somewhat through evolution. But a few ideas suggest themselves.

Locke was administrator of King County, an elective job, and twice elected governor of Washington, popular enough that he was expected to run for an win a third term, which in 2004 he declined to do. Those successes came in times less propitious for Democrats than they are now, and they point to both some political dexterity and to a core centrism. Locke's politics and approach seemed to be within the Democratic mainstream, taken as a whole. But he also aggravated Democrats at times, and during rough budget times earlier this decade, agreeing to substantial cuts and resisting calls for tax increases.

More specifically on point, he was active in economic development, both by way of frequent and extensive trade missions to Asia and in working with (some thought surrendering too much to) Boeing, in an effort to keep major construction projects in the Puget Sound (an effort mostly but not wholly successful). His law practice since involves general governmental relations but also some emphasis on trade relations with China. That happens to a point of some interest to the Obama Administration, considering where newly-minted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has gone on her first trip as such overseas.

Putting it together: A Commerce secretary able to go out and sell programs in a broad way, with some instinct toward the political center, and with strong interest in Asian relations and trade (and capable of building some strong interest in that area owing to his ancestry). There's a certain logic to it.

And, oh yeah, he'd be the third Northwesterner appointed to a major administration spot. The area might not be quite so underrepresented.