Category Archives: Initiatives

Eyman’s 2015 I-1366 is a Repeat of Eyman’s 2014 I-1325

Initiative 1366, sponsored by Tim Eyman, is a citizen’s initiative for the Nov 2015 Election. It is a refiling of Initiative 1325 from 2014 which Eyman failed to get enough signatures on to qualify. Here are a couple of comments from last year  about this proposal.

Spokesman Review – Jan. 10, 2014 Editorial – “Eyman’s Tax Initiative Looking for a Problem”

Tim Eyman has a new idea, his worst ever, and that’s saying something.
The watch salesman turned initiative promoter submitted a proposal to the Washington Secretary of State on Monday that would compel the Legislature to enact and pass along to voters a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote by state lawmakers or voters on any tax increase.
How compel?
Initiative 1325 would cut the state sales tax rate to 5.5 percent from 6.5 percent. The change would reduce annual revenues by about $1 billion. But the reduction would not occur if the Legislature endorses the amendment by April 15, 2015.
In other words, the initiative puts a $1 billion gun to the head of legislators.
Eyman calls the incentive “oomph.” Blackmail is more like it.

This is not about protecting taxpayers. I-1325 is about keeping Eyman in business.

Crosscut, Feb 6, 2014 – “A 2/3 vote for tax bumps?  Tim Eyman will rise again” – article on a vote by the Legislature for a constitutional amendment for a  2/3 vote for revenue to be placed on the ballot. It received a vote of 25 to 21, far short of the 2/3 needed to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

“Minority Democrats countered that the Legislature struggled to meet financial requirements when the two-thirds requirement was in effect. They unsuccessfully tried to remove the two-thirds requirements to close tax breaks and to allow majority approval of some fund transfers covered by the supermajority requirement in Roach’s bill. The Democratic attempts failed.
Also, Democrats pointed to the need to comply with a 2012 Supreme Court ruling to upgrade education and to restore a frequently suppressed voters initiative to provide cost-of-living increases to teachers.
Democratic Senate budget chief James Hargrove of Hoquiam noted that it took two extra special sessions in 2013 to close two tax breaks to balance the state budget — with a simple majority rule in place. He said 17 senators — 12 percent of the entire Legislature  — could hold the budget hostage in order to get their pet bills passed. “It’s called the rule of 17, a super-minority,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent.

From the Washington State Secretary of State’s website:

Ballot Title
Initiative Measure No. 1366 concerns state taxes and fees.

This measure would decrease the sales tax rate unless the legislature refers to voters a constitutional amendment requiring two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval to raise taxes, and legislative approval for fee increases.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]

Ballot Measure Summary
This measure would decrease the state retail sales tax rate on April 15, 2016, from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent. The sales tax rate would not be decreased if, by April 15, 2016, two-thirds of both legislative houses refer to the ballot a vote on a constitutional amendment that requires two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval to raise taxes, and majority legislative approval to set the amount of a fee increase.

View Complete Text PDF

Initiative 1366 is an Ted Cruz style of coercion measure, threatening to remove $1 billion a year in revenue from the state budget. It would severely cripple funding for education in this state.  It is a libertarian ant- government, anti-tax initiative intended  to lock in tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy and severely limit funding of public services by requiring a 2/3 vote to raise revenue or repeal tax loopholes.

Do not sign or support or vote for Initiative 1366!

I-1366 – Another Eyman Initiative to Help Corporations and the Wealthy

Initiative 1366 is another Washington State initiative attempt by libertarian Tim Eyman to help the wealthy and corporate America avoid taxes and tax reform. With the most regressive tax structure in the country it is  a blatant attempt to prevent the Legislature from engaging in tax reform or eliminating tax exemptions that do not benefit the state or its citizens. It proposes to use an extortion tactic reminiscent of Senator Ted Cruz’s trying to shut down the Federal government to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

I-1366 would eliminate $1 billion in sales taxes per year  from the  state budget if the Legislature does not vote to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot for a vote. Eyman’s proposed amendment would require a 2/3 vote by the Legislature to raise taxes or eliminate tax exemptions.

Eyman is not able to secure anywhere near the required 2/3 vote required by the Washington State Legislature to normally put a constitutional amendment on the ballot.  So he is attempting this extortion tactic which requires only a majority vote of the public to reduce the sales tax by a billion dollars unless the Legislature takes a 2/3 vote and puts his “corporate tax loophole preservation amendment” on the ballot.

Something just stinks about this sort of extortion style tactics to get what you want rather than following the normal political process.  Eyman of course is trying to sell this to low and middle income voters as a way to keep their taxes low. The problem is that the reverse takes place. Washington State has the most regressive tax structure in the country according to a 2015 report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

The ITEP report states that the lowest 20% of income earners (non-elderly) making less than $21,000 pay 16.8% of their income in state and local taxes. Meanwhile the wealthiest top 1% earning over $507,000 pay only 2.4% of their income in state and local taxes.

This is not the first year that Washington State held this distinction but it is an ongoing one because for many years Washington state has had a 2/3 vote requirement to raise revenue as well as repeal non-performing tax exemptions. Raising revenue as defined also includes the legislature changing a revenue source even if the overall revenue raised is neutral. This has made tax reform extremely difficult.

The 2/3 vote requirement first put in place by Initiative 601 in 1993, suspended several times and re-enacted several times by initiative until finally ruled unconstitutional in 2013 by the Washington State Supreme Court. The court declared that the 2/3 voting requirement to raise revenue violated Article II, Section 22 of the Washington State Constitution which stated that for a bill to become law it needed a majority vote.

Eyman uses the fear of tax increases by the legislature on those hurting the most by the regressive tax structure of our state. This fear recently saw another defeat of an income tax initiative – I-1098 which would have shifted more taxes to the wealthy and reduced the regressiveness of our  state’s tax structure.

Voters need to understand that 2/3 vote requirements like Eyman is proposing help the wealthy and corporations the most. They allow a minority of 1/3 of the Legislators in either Legislative house who are anti – government anti- tax to overrule a majority of Legislators that want both to enact a fairer tax system and also fund public services like educating our children and helping the needy. Eyman is motivated by an anti-tax anti-government libertarian agenda that puts wealth accumulation and concentration in the hands of a few.  There is no trickle down – it is more like a waterspout with only the rich having the buckets to collect the money.

Don’t sign I-1366 and if it gets on the ballot vote NO. Support tax reform to help end wealth inequality and tax regressiveness. Support raising the minimum wage. Don’t enact a law like I-1366 which will take a billion dollars out of funding for state education for our kids.  Don’t support passing legislation like I-1366 which helps corporations keep their tax loopholes and the wealthy pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than low and middle income earners.

 

Brad Owen Voids Republican Senate Rule as Unconstitutional

In a ruling on March 2, 2015,  Brad Owen, the Lt Governor of Washington State and presiding officer and President of the Washington  Senate did the right thing. He declared that the Senate rule passed by the Republicans in the Washington State Senate earlier this year to require a 2/3 vote to raise revenue was unconstitutional and thus void. As noted in a press release by the Northwest Progressive Institute, Brad Owen stated:

“The President has previously stated, The Senate cannot pass a rule that violates the state Constitution,” …: “Perhaps that statement should be clarified to read, The Senate may adopt an unconstitutional rule, but the President will not enforce it.”

The Washington State Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that requiring a 2/3 vote of legislators to raise revenue was unconstitutional because the Washington State Constitution said laws shall be passed by majority votes. As written in the Tacoma News Tribune at the time:

The language and history of the constitution evince a principle favoring a simple majority vote for legislation,” wrote Justice Susan Owens for the 6-3 majority (previous posts mistakenly said Chief Justice Madsen wrote majority). “The State’s proposed reading of article II, section 22 would fundamentally alter our system of government, and such alteration is possible only through constitutional amendment. Washington’s government was founded as a representative democracy based on simple majority rule.” “The Supermajority Requirement unconstitutionally amends the constitution by imposing a two-thirds vote requirement for tax legislation. More importantly, the Supermajority Requirement substantially alters our system of government, thus enabling a tyranny of the minority.”

Brad Owen based his decision on the Washington State Supreme Court decision. As reported by the Tacoma News Tribune :

“The state Senate’s presiding officer said Monday he won’t enforce a Senate rule making it harder to raise taxes. The rule violates the state constitution, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen ruled. With the ruling by Owen, a Democrat, the votes of 25 of 49 senators are required to move a tax through the Senate, the same 50-percent-plus-one majority as required in the House. The rule required a two-thirds supermajority to bring a bill to a final vote if the bill created new taxes. In invalidating it, Owen relied on a 2013 state Supreme Court ruling striking down voter-passed requirements for two-thirds supermajorities for taxes.”

Unfortunately the Tacoma News also gives a plug for libertarian anti tax Tim Eyman who for years pushed the unconstitutional 2/3 voting requirement in initiative campaigns. He is now pushing a “Ted Cruz style shut down the government stop educating our kids until I get my way” initiative. While he likes the 2/3 voting proposal when it suits his purpose, he hates it when it is an obstacle to get his way.
The Washington State Supreme Court said the only way a 2/3 rule could apply was if it was in the Washington State Constitution. But that’s the kicker – it takes a 2/3 vote of the legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Eyman doesn’t have anywhere near what he needs for 2/3 since Republicans are his main base of support.  And they are in the minority in the House and barely 2 votes over a majority in the Senate.
Eyman’s answer –Initiative 1366 – have voter’s cut $1 billion from the state budget until they put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Voters would be ill served by starting to hold the legislature hostage to ransom since voters would be the ones suffering by seeing public education and other services cut even more.
Many voters miss the connection that who really benefits are large corporations who don’t want to pay taxes like for cleaning up their pollution. Big oil companies like BP and Tesoro gave Eyman big money in the past so the Legislature couldn’t raise funds from them to clean up oil pollution. It the average individual and family taxpayers who suffer as a result because they have to pay instead of the polluters who are making huge profits.
In addition BP and other corporations don’t want to see their tax loopholes end.  While they only take a majority vote to enact, under the 2/3 proposal it would take a 2/3 vote of the Legislature to end them, even if they provided no benefit to the state. The 2/3 vote proposal actually puts the minority in charge of tax policy since 1/3 of the Legislators in either house could then block tax legislation.
All in all it is a bad dealer for working families and most taxpayers in our state. Corporations love the idea. Don’t be fooled.  Don’t support Eyman’s latest corporate benefiting initiative that would further damage education in our state. Don’t sign Initiative 1366. And don’t vote for it, if his paid signature gatherers help him make it onto the November ballot.

2015 Washington State Minimum Wage to Increase to $9.47/hr.

Washington State’s minimum wage will increase 15 cents on January 1, 2015 to $9.47 per hour.  Every year Washington State’s minimum wage increases based on inflation increasing the  Federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) over the last 12 months ending Aug. 31 of each year.  Initiative 688 passed by voters in 1998 was the first state in the nation to add the requirement that the minimum wage each year must be increased based on inflation.

The National Conference of State Legislatures  website has a list of all states and what their minimum wages will be next year. They note that nine states will have an increase based on their state laws requiring they be indexed to inflation. These state are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington. Oregon will have the second highest state minimum wage after Washington State next year at $9.25 per hour.

The current Federal minimum wage is $7.25. Twenty nine states and the District of Columbia next year will have a higher  minimum wage than the Federal minimum wage. Attempts have been made in Congress to raise the Federal minimum  wage which is not indexed to inflation but have been rebuffed by Republicans who have taken the approach to oppose any legislation being pushed by President Obama.

The Federal minimum wage was last increased on July 24, 2009 – over five and a half years ago. The wage increase was part of passage of the Fair Labor Practices Act.  As the US Department of Labor notes “The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.”

President Obama has proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Republicans who are more concerned about supporting corporate America than working families  have repeatedly opposed such legislation. President Obama in a direct attempt to circumvent Republican’s negative approach to addressing America’s problems  like income equality hurting those on the bottom of the economic ladder, signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for those working for Federal contractors to $10.10 per hour.

Why Eyman’s 1/3 Constitutional Vote Proposal is Bad for Washington Taxpayers

`Tim Eyman is trying to convince voters that Washington State needs a constitutional amendment to allow 1/3 of the Legislators to decide issues regarding raising revenues in Washington state. He has  filed Initiative 1325 to try to force the legislature to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot by a coercive tactic of proposing to cut the state component of the state sales tax by 15% if they don’t. Eyman calls it a 2/3 vote measure but the reality is that it allows 1/3 of the Legislators to make budget decisions on raising revenue rather than a majority.

Eyman’s attempt to enact his  1/3 constitutional amendment is a repeat of the recent Republican extortionist  proposal regarding raising the debt limit  in Congress by shutting down government.   The 15% cut under Eyman’s measure if the Legislature doesn’t play by his rules would occur by reducing the current 6.5% state sales tax to 5.5%.  This would equal over a billion dollars a year. Of course to Eyman the one billion dollars has no significance, it is merely a tool to try to use as extortion to promote  his libertarian view that taxes and government can do no good and the more we cut them the better. Continue reading

Tax Sanity Pushes for a Tax Expenditure Budget for Increased Accountability and Transparency

Tax Sanity has been busy drafting legislation to create a tax expenditure budget bill to increase transparency and accountability over Washington State’s ever growing tax exemptions.  The most recent special legislative session saw the Governor and the State Legislature push for additional tax breaks for Boeing, creating the largest state corporate tax break in the nation. As Reuters reported, “The Washington state legislature … passed a measure to extend nearly $9 billion in tax breaks for Boeing through 2040 in an embattled effort to entice the company to locate production of its newest jet, the 777X, in the Seattle area.”  And even it may not be enough to keep Boeing here as now a race to the bottom is occurring as other states compete to try to lure Boeing to their state.

Tax Sanity believes the continued push to create more and more tax exemptions is out of control.  There needs to be more accountability for results and more transparency in who is benefiting and who is losing. They propose doing this by requiring the legislature to create a tax expenditure budget detailing all the exemptions, their cost and who they benefit that the legislature has to adopt every two years as part of the general appropriations budget or exemption will expire.

Their latest draft which they are urging legislators to adopt has also been filed as an initiative to the legislature.  Initiative 626 has just received the following ballot title and summary:

Ballot Title
Initiative Measure No. 626 concerns taxes.

This measure would require new and existing discretionary tax preferences to be authorized every two years in a tax expenditure budget and repeal requirements for advisory votes of the people on tax increases.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]

Ballot Measure Summary
This measure would require the legislature to approve new and existing discretionary tax preferences every two years, in a tax expenditure budget detailing the fiscal impact and purpose of each tax preference. The tax expenditure budget would be included in the biennial omnibus operating appropriations act. Tax preferences not included in the tax exemption budget would expire at the end of the fiscal year. The measure would repeal requirements for advisory votes on tax increases.

View Complete Text PDF

Washington State currently has over 650 tax exemptions.  While some are required by our State Constitution or the US Constitution or by Federal law, the discretionary ones still number over 400. They are usually described as either an exemption, exclusion or deduction from the base of a tax; a credit against a tax; a deferral of a tax or a preferential tax rate. They are all  off budget spending that once granted almost never is rescinded. Only 10% of them have sunset dates. They represent expenditures of tax dollars which if not exempted from collection would be available as state revenue to fund critical state needs like education or health care.

The magnitude of the situation is not clear to the general public. Yet last year the Washington State Department of Revenue in its once every four year report on tax exemptions listing the discretionary tax exemptions points out why they are more appropriately called tax expenditures.  This is what most other states call them.  They are revenue that is not collected from some taxpayers but is collected from others. They noted that while we collected some $6.5 billion in B&O tax revenue in the last biennium, we did not collect but “exempted” some $7.5 billion.  We collected less than half the B&O tax revenue  available if every business paid the same.

When the sales and use tax collection was added to the B&O tax collection, essentially the same net result occurred.  The state collected some $21 billion in revenue but excluded $20 billion from collection.  Tax exemptions continue to grow with the Legislature adding another 15 in the 2012 session.

The process is out of control. This is why Tax Sanity is urging the state legislature to let the public know the extent to which they are supporting tax expenditures, who is benefiting and how much they are receiving. No future legislature is bound by the actions of past legislatures. Legislators have a responsibility to use tax dollars wisely, including being judicious and wise in giving out tax breaks. The Legislature needs to be held accountable for the current out of control use of tax exemptions to benefit special interests and business while cutting public services like education and health care. Requiring them to adopt a tax expenditure budget every 2 years as part of the regular operating appropriations budget and end the shifting of state revenue to off budget spending that lacks accountability and transparency.

Vote “Maintain” on Five Eyman “Tax Advisory Votes”

The Washington State Ballot this November has five tax advisory votes which are very confusing to most people.

These tax advisory votes were put there by  Tim Eyman’s Initiative 960 as his attempt to increase public resentment to any “tax” measures even when they benefit the larger public. The ballot title for each is basically written as an  anti-tax push poll based on Eyman’s ballot title language in Initiative 960 that stipulated the ballot title wording.

They carry no Legislative weight as they only record  voters opinions. In essence they are like a public opinion poll paid for by taxpayers. But Eyman tries to use them to show public opposition to funding public services by wording them such that voters will be inclined to respond negatively to any tax increase. Under Eyman’s definition of tax increases he also includes any efforts by the Legislature to repeal any tax exemptions or tax expenditures even if they are tax loopholes that only benefit special interests and not the general public.

Deciphering the ballot title language is very tricky and confusing. It waspurposely written to try to get voters to vote to repeal any tax increase passed by the Legislature.   And unlike initiatives, the writeup on the so called tax advisory votes  in the voter’s pamphlet contain no explanatory statement, no pro and con statements, and no fiscal impact statement.

In fact the State Attorney General had no real ability to even try to fairly explain the issue in the ballot title since Eyman’s initiative 960 required that the ballot tile be written as:

The legislature imposed, without a vote of the people, (identification of tax and description of increase), costing (most up-to-date ten-year cost projection, expressed in dollars and rounded to the nearest million) in its first ten years, for government spending. This tax increase should be:
Repealed . . .[ ]
Maintained . . .[ ]

I have made bold the mandatory wording required which by itself is intended to encourage people to vote to repeal any “tax increase”.

Both Democrats and Republicans voted by wide margins in the Legislature to approve all 5 of these measures, including to repeal some tax exemptions and fix the inheritance tax exclusion set up by a court decision, to secure revenue to help fund the budget.

Voters should vote to “maintain” these legislative decisions.

Advisory Vote No. 3 (Substitute Senate Bill 5444)

Ballot Title

The legislature eliminated, without a vote of the people, a leasehold excise tax credit for taxpayers who lease publicly-owned property, costing approximately $2,000,000 in the first ten years, for government spending.

This tax increase should be:

[  ]  Repealed

[X  ]  Maintained

 

Advisory Vote No. 4 (Senate Bill 5627)

Ballot Title

The legislature imposed, without a vote of the people, an aircraft excise tax on commuter air carriers in lieu of property tax, costing approximately $500,000 in its first ten years, for government spending.

This tax increase should be:

Repealed   [  ]

Maintained   [ X ]

 

Advisory Vote No. 5 (Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1846)

Ballot Title

The legislature extended, without a vote of the people, the insurance premium tax to some insurance for pediatric oral services, costing an amount that cannot currently be estimated, for government spending.

This tax increase should be:

Repealed   [  ]

Maintained   [X  ]
Advisory Vote No. 6 (Second Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1971)

Ballot Title

The legislature eliminated, without a vote of the people, a retail sales tax exemption for certain telephone and telecommunications services, costing approximately $397,000,000 in the first ten years, for government spending.

This tax increase should be:

Repealed   [  ]

Maintained   [X  ]

 

Advisory Vote No. 7 (Engrossed House Bill 2075)

Ballot Title

The legislature extended, without a vote of the people, estate tax on certain property transfers and increased rates for estates over $4,000,000, costing approximately $478,000,000 in the first ten years, for government spending.

This tax increase should be:

Repealed   [  ]

Maintained   [X  ]

For additional information on these measures see the Washington State Voters Pamphlet which gives links to the actual bills passed by the Legislature. Click on the tab “full text” to read the original bill as passed by the Washington State Legislature.

You can also refer to the statement in the Progressive Voters Guide.

The Tax Advisory Vote requirement  in I-960 is a waste of taxpayer dollars, both in the added costs to print up and tally ballot votes and the extra cost to print up Eyman’s required material in the Voters pamphlet. They represent an abuse of the public electoral process in that they are no more than a biased anti-tax slanted push poll conducted at public expense. The Advisory Tax Vote requirement  in I-960 needs to be either repealed by legislators or the voters.

Tax Advisory Votes Might Not Mean Much But Cost a Lot, Seattle Times, July 16, 2013

Voters to Send Pricey Telegram with Five Tax Advisory Votes -Legislators will get scarlet letter, Erik Smith, Washington State Wire, July 23, 2013

 

 

Five GMO Labelling Opponents Dump in Over $11 Million Against I-522

Opponents to Initiative 522 – No on 522 -to require GMO labeling on foods have dumped in over $11 million so far against the measure. Here is the complete list  of the  five total contributors to date:

Monsanto, St Louis, MO  $4,592,255

Dupont Pioneer,  Johnston, IA   $3,420,159

Grocery Manufactor’s Assoc, Washington, DC  $2,322,500

Bayer Cropscience, Research Triangle PK, NC  $591,664

Dow Agrosciences,  Indianapolis, IN  $29,531

The No on 522 campaign launched their TV campaign  on Sept 17, 2013   press release

 

Proponents of I-532, the Yes on 522 committee , has raised some $3,609.933  from some 3160 contributors.  The largest contributors to date for $25,000 or more are:

Dr Bonner’s Magic Soaps, Escondidia, CA   $950,000

Organic Consumer Fund, Seattle  $480,000

Mercola.com Health Resources LLC, Hoffman Estates, IL  $200,000

Presence Marketing Inc, Barrington, IL $200,000

Nature Path Foods USA, Inc, Blaine WA $150,000

Center for Food Safety Action Fund, Washington, DC $100,000

PCC Natural Foods, Seattle, WA $100,000

Annies, Inc, Berkeley, CA $50,000

Food Democracy Now, Clear Lake, IA  $50,000

Mark D Squire, Fairfax, CA  $50,000

GFA Brands, Inc, Paramus, NJ  $50,000

William T Weiland, Schaumburg, IL  $50,000

The yes on 522 ads began on September 16, 2013 – press release

Yes on 522 ad – Right

Yes on 522 ad – Washingtonians

 

Data for No and yes campaigns from reports to www.pdc.wa.gov

 

Time to Increase the Federal Minimum Wage and Index It to Inflation

As the Huffington Post points out it’s been 4 years since the last increase in the Federal minimum wage. It’s time to raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation so that Congress does not repeatedly ignore inflation impacts on the wages of low income workers. Corporate millionaires  seem to have no problem getting their income raised. Why do Republicans in Congress hate low income workers?

If you raise the minimum wage, low income workers will spend the money and help the economy.  Henry Ford long ago understood that if he didn’t pay his workers reasonable wages they weren’t going to be able to buy his cars. It seems conservative and Tea party Republicans in Congress both don’t understand or care.

As an article a year ago in Deseret News noted:

The federal minimum wage, which is $7.25, hasn’t changed since 2009. In real terms, America’s lowest-paid workers make less than they did in 1968, according to Remapping Debate. With an annual income of $15,080, a full-time minimum wage worker’s salary is just under the 2012 federal poverty threshold of $15,130 for a family of two. It falls well below the poverty threshold for a family of three, which is $19,090.

A year later nothing has changed. Republicans continue to sneer at low income workers rather than working for fairness and a more equitable distribution of the fruits of business that don’t just increase wages and benefits for those at the top and increase dividends for stock holders, while ignoring the real life day to day plight of many of their workers.

While Congress is under siege by Republican lawmakers opposes raising the minimum wage, states have fared better in increasing it. As Stateline pointed out earlier this year:

“…minimum wage hikes at the state level have been popular among voters: Since 1998, proposed increases have been on statewide ballots 10 times in nine states, and all of them were successful. In those elections the ballot measures won an average of 65 percent of the vote, according to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a progressive Washington, D.C., group that advocated for the hikes.”

Washington State has the highest state minimum wage in the country at $9.19 an hour. It has remained as a leader in keeping pace with inflation because when it was passed by the voters it included language for an automatic increase each year based on inflation. When Initiative 688 was passed by the voters in 1998, Washington State  was the first state in the country to put in place an automatic inflation increase each year. Unfortunately the federal minimum wage law does not and is subject to continual delays and battles in Congress to try to increase it to keep pace with inflation.

New Jersey has a minimum wage increase initiative on the ballot this year. Stateline notes that

If New Jersey voters approve the measure on the ballot there, the state would become the 11th with annual automatic increases to the minimum wage indexed to inflation: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington already index. In all of them except Vermont, voters approved the measure with the automatic hike at the polls.

Congress needs to act to be fair and just to low income workers in our country. Conservative politics driven by Tea Party Republicans and libertarian philosophy needs to be shown for what it is – a hypocritical joke where tax breaks for corporations and special interests rule their decisions to benefit the well off and few while millions struggle to meet basic living expenses.

The country is continuing under conservative policies to further divide the rich and poor.  Wealth continues to be concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer Americans. More states need to push for increases in their state minimum wage, putting more pressure on Congress to act.  Republican anti-worker positions needs to be challenged  and voters supporting state minimum wage laws that include automatic increases for inflation are one way to do that. In addition continued pressure needs to be put on Congress to act.

 

Tim Eyman’s Attack on Free Speech with Initiative 517

Initiative 517 is a Tim Eyman initiative that is on the November 2013 ballot in Washington State.  It is a measure to promote Tim Eyman’s  business – which is making a living off of putting conservative libertarian measures on the ballot.  In this case Eyman wants to create a 25 foot signature gathering zone around petitioners where people can not speak out and oppose his business. It is a direct infringement on the free speech rights of citizens, violating the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution.

Jason Mercier of the conservative “free market” Washington Policy Center writes about Initiative 517 in today’s Thedailyworld.com under a headline of “Heavy hitters line up against I-517“. Mercier in his opinion piece brushes aside some of the concerns about Eyman’s self serving initiative as non-controversial.  That is not the reality.

This measure is not as uncontroversial as Jason Mercier suggests. One of Eyman’s provisions is to create a 25 foot no harassment zone around signature gatherers.  There are already penalties for harassment that work just fine. I-517 tries to go much further by shutting down free speech activities around petition gatherers.

Eyman’s measure infringes on 1st amendment rights by setting up a 25 zone around petitioners saying that certain activity can result in disorderly conduct charges including activity that is “…intimidating, or maintaining an intimidating presence within twenty-five feet of any person gathering signatures”.  To most petitioners someone standing 5 feet away and carrying a sign saying “do not sign this measure” or merely saying out loud that citizens should read the measure before signing it causes petitioners to say they are being harassed.

This measure is an attempt to shut down public discourse and dialogue in  public places and silence those opposing Eyman’s measures.  This violates 1st amendment free speech rights and goes too far.  Eyman wants a free pass to collect signatures without anyone questioning him.  Trying to silence those that dissent peacefully with others is what you would expect in a totalitarian society, but not in America.

We will publish more of our concerns about Initiative 517 over the next few months but believe it goes too far.  The public strongly supply the initiative process in Washington State and it has been used by both right and left leaning groups in pushing Washington policy and law. But there is a balancing act necessary to protect rights of both supporters and opponents of specific initiative measures in the public arena.

Initiative 517 is a “solution” looking for a problem and there isn’t one in this case. Eyman has not had a problem getting initiatives on the ballot and neither have others, especially if they have money. This measure would make it easier for Eyman to get more of his measures on the ballot and that is why he is pushing it.

For progressives thinking this will make it easier for them to get measures on the ballot, the downside is that they will also have to spend more time fighting more conservative measures put on the ballot by Eyman, including those at the local level. It’s already hard enough to fight an Eyman measure year after year.  Think what it will be like with two or three Eyman measures on the ballot each year and 4 or 5 others at the same time at the local level.

We elect a Legislature to do the people’s business after public hearings and review.  While initiatives are a healthy outlet  for the public to act when the legislature doesn’t, running our state more and more by initiative puts the process of making our state laws up for sale to the highest bidder.

Unfortunately the highest bidder is usually corporate and special interests that can afford to spend millions to get their message out to the voting public.