Opinion

The Kent Reporter's editorial stance on state initiatives

This year the Kent Reporter is offering the following suggestions on some of the high-profile state initiatives on the November ballot. The overviews are the consensus of Publisher Polly Shepherd and Laura Pierce.

Initiative 1098:

We urge a “no” vote on this measure, which would institute a state income tax on the highest earners in Washington.

While the intentions of 1098 supporters are good – Washington’s top earners offsetting disproportionate tax burdens on the middle class and businesses – it greases the skids for a future income tax that could affect all of us.

Washington voters have made it clear over the years they do not want a state income tax. Passing I-1098 initially puts the tax on the affluent (single people earning more than $200,000 or married couples earning more than $400,000) but there are opportunities down the road for this scenario to change.

It would take a majority vote of the Legislature, and a statewide election to expand the tax to other income levels. This could put an income-tax debate on the table for years to come, especially when the Legislature sees the opportunity for “easy money,” versus making tough spending decisions. With that kind of carrot dangling at every Legislative session, it’s easy to see a shift in dialogue occurring in Olympia.

We need our Legislature looking at the revenue they’ve actually got, rather than wasting valuable session time figuring out how to get more this way.

Initiative 1100:

We urge a “no” vote on this initiative, which would close state liquor stores and privatize liquor sales.

In this age of DUI awareness and underage drinking, keeping this measure from passing should be a given. Aside from the obvious - potentially thousands more places to buy hard liquor - it’s going to cost taxpayers more.

Right now, state liquor sales bring in about $350 million a year. That’s money now going to police, fire, schools and substance-abuse prevention. I-1100 would remove a sizable chunk of that funding, as mini-marts and other local stores displace what is now a state-run industry.

Given the current problems with state revenues right now, it would be regrettable to pass something cutting back state funding, as well as increasing the likelihood of minors accessing hard liquor. This measure also would cost taxpayers more due to increased threats to public safety – putting more pressure on our already strained law-enforcement budgets.

This measure also is opposed by a variety of law-enforcement and emergency organizations. We think their reasoning to oppose this measure is sound.

Initiative 1105:

For the same reasons we oppose I-1100, we also urge a “no” vote on I-1105, which again would do away with state liquor stores, but would put sales in the hands of “licensed” agents at private stores. While the measure seeks to give the state a “cut,” by charging license fees, it’s still fundamentally wrong to open the market to private liquor sales at this time, when we have a problem with underage drinking already. It’s not as if people don’t know where to get hard liquor - this just increases their ways of getting it.

What’s more, the revenue that cities and counties now get through state liquor-excise taxes would be eliminated. Our local cities and counties already are dealing with major losses in revenue: opening the door to more underage drinking, and putting more demand on local and county law enforcement is not acceptable, for the gains this measure proposes.

Initiative 1107:

We urge the passage of this measure, which would do away with the recently enacted sales tax on candy and some bottled water, as well as reducing tax rates for certain food processors.

Sales tax is one of the most regressive ways to collect public dollars - and putting yet more tax on food items is even more regressive: it hits those with the lowest incomes the hardest. Taxing these items also puts undue hardship on businesses already hit hard by the recession.

I-1107 would remove what is basically a flawed attempt by our Legislature to extract money from where consumers need it the most - their grocery bills. The fact that this tax is unevenly applied - meaning some items that are candy aren’t taxed, while other items that qualify as health items are - is all the more reason to do away with this tax.

The tax is a mistake, and I-1107 is the simplest way for voters to remedy this flawed legislative action.

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