All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Less Free, But Improving

The serfs are a little better off. That's so nice....

Washington State is not very free, according to the libertarian oriented Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

"Washington was among the states that improved the most in overall freedom and consequently moved up five spots in the rankings. Unfortunately for denizens of that state, it had—and still has—a long way to go. Washington is still among the 10 least-free states. Indeed, it only barely cracks the top half of states in personal freedom.

[Government] spending is a bit higher than average, but taxes are slightly lower—a recipe for government debt, which Washington has in abundance. Government employment is also too high. Land-use planning is somewhat centralized."

The Center made these policy suggestions
  1. Reduce spending consistent with the state’s relatively decent tax-burden levels, starting with reducing government employment and spending on natural resources (mostly at the state government level) and sewerage (at the local government level), which is particularly far above national norms.
  2. Enact further-reaching eminent-domain reform.
  3. Reduce centralized land-use planning by repealing or amending the Growth Management Act and Shoreline Management Act.
The Mercatus Center study of Washington State, and the study of several United States.

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Retail complications

What certainly classifies as an abuse is what merchants have to do to make an in state retail sale. The merchant gets to add the item's sales tax according to the shipment's destination. This sounds innocuous enough until you realize the state has a crazy quilt of retail sales tax rates.

You can tell the state's tax scheme is too complicated when you look at the Department of Revenue webpage and see they want to know the street address before they tell you the tax rate.

At least the information is available in 6 languages other than English.

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Guns too?

The sales tax slurping sound is audible if you need to transfer a firearm from out of state. All such transfers have to go through a federally licensed firearms dealer. Washington State now compels those dealers to estimate the value of the firearm they are transferring and tax you accordingly.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Olympia's gutlessness, and our Initiative to stop it

Olympia overspent. Spending and tax income are not going to balance. The legislature did not have the fortitude required to cut unnecessary spending. The unresolved spending problem is around $5.5 billion.

But the legislative session is over for now, and Legislature has gone home. Like a bowl of rotten oatmeal, the Legislature left a bad taste and a likely intestinal problem. Why does this Legislature think they can spend our money better than we can spend our money?

Initiative Momentum
by Tim Eyman

Last year's 64% vote for Initiative 1053 was extraordinary. Not only did it receive a supermajority level of public support, it was the 4th time voters approved its taxpayer protection policies. Voters clearly said they'd had it with Olympia's insatiable appetite for taking more of the people's money. Even so, before this year's session started, Gregoire signaled her obstruction: "I'm not gonna let 1053 stand in the way of me moving forward for what I think is right."

That's exactly what she/they did. In direct conflict with what the voters said, the Legislature fundamentally undermined and sidestepped I-1053 in various ways during this year's session. It's shocking how brazen and disrespectful they were of the people's decision. We would need several initiatives to reverse everything they did to I-1053 -- we simply can't do that. Instead, we are focusing on their worst violations.

Totally contrary to I-1053's policies, the Legislature re-empowered Gregoire's Transportation Commission -- a bunch of unelected bureaucrats -- to unilaterally impose tolls on our state's streets, roads, highways, and bridges.

With our state's slow-growing economy and high unemployment rates, families and businesses are struggling just handling their existing burdens -- they're hard pressed to take on any more. Despite the fact that Washington has the highest gas tax in the nation, they're planning on forcing us to pay twice with sky-high tolls. It shows a complete lack of compassion for the taxpayers' plight and totally ignores what the voters said in November.

The Governor's and the Legislature's arrogance and disrespect for the voters has spurred this year's initiative. I-1125 does the following:

  • Resurrects I-1053's policy that the Legislature, and not Gregoire's Transportation Commission, set tolls so we can hold toll-crazy politicians accountable;
  • Requires that transportation taxes and tolls only go toward transportation, prohibiting raids and diversions to non-transportation purposes;
  • Reinforces current law that requires that tolls be project-specific, preventing tolls from becoming de facto taxes;
  • Requires that tolls GO AWAY/STOP/EXPIRE after the project is paid for (that's the way it's always been, but Olympia recently changed it so tolls will now go on FOREVER -- I-1125 says NO to never-ending tolls).
  • Prohibits gas-tax-funded lanes on state highways from being transferred or used for non-highway purposes (our state Constitution -- the 18th Amendment -- already prohibits this, but politicians are still trying to weasel out of this constitutional prohibition); and
  • Ensures that tolls are uniform and consistent.
This year's I-1125 reinforces protections in our state Constitution and resurrects policies approved by voters with I-1053.

Tim Eyman's website

Friday, June 3, 2011

Initiatives 2011

The legislative session is over, so Impolite attention turns to the people's legislative process -- the right to initiative petition.

Washington State Constitution, Declaration of Rights

"All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights." - Article 1, Section 1

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Initiative -1125 -- This measure would prohibit the use of motor vehicle fund revenue and vehicle toll revenue for non-transportation purposes, and require that road and bridge tolls be set by the legislature and be project-specific.

I-1125 restores I-1053's policies that Gregoire and the Legislature reversed this year. The governor and legislature imposed new tolls on bridge and highway use through a committee of bureaucrats appointed for the purpose -- in effect bypassing the legally required 2/3 super-majority to enact new tolls, fees, etc. Those increased revenues are being used principally to pay for the unsustainable increased levels of state spending. The state constitution requires revenues gathered from motor vehicle sources be devoted to motor vehicle purposes - highway construction, maintenance and the like.

The current, unlawful, practice in Olympia directs tolls to the general fund. Weirdly, there is an ad opposing 1125 which seems to claim road construction will be reduced by $500 million if 1125 is enacted. Not so. What will be reduced is $500 million from roads going into the general fund.

Impolite recommends you sign I-1125 and vote yes in November. The People have the right to control their government.

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The following measure has been withdrawn from the ballot. The Humane Society of the United States made an agreement with the egg industry. The agreement will effectively implement 1130 by 2029.

Initiative 1130 by the Humane Society of WA DC and the Farm Sanctuary of Watkins Glen, New York -- Initiative Measure No. 1130 concerns confinement of egg-laying hens. This measure would prohibit, with certain exceptions, confining hens in stacked cages or cages that limit the hens’ movement, and would prohibit the sale of eggs in the shell from hens so confined.

The well funded I-1130 is the only initiative who got their signature drive out of the gate on day one.

Through the end of April, they've raised a total of $372,011 with $207,035 from the Humane Society, 2100 L St NW, Washington DC 20037 and $150,000 from Farm Sanctuary Inc, PO Box 150, Watkins Glen, New York, 14891. They hired PCI Consultants Inc, 26500 Agoura Rd, Calabasas, CA 91302-1952 as their paid signature gathering firm and have paid them $260,224.30 so far.

I-1130 would allow chickens to "stretch their wings" and not live in production cages. If you know chickens, you know this is a pointless initiative. When the people of the state decided not to hunt cougars, we started seeing news reports of children mauled and killed by cougars. Although this initiative is similarly 'feel-good', at least chickens aren't as dangerous as cougars.

Some vegans say I-1130 doesn't go far enough and recommend a no vote.

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Initiative 1163 by the SIEU (Government employees union, Service Employees International Union Local 775) -- Initiative Measure No. 1163 concerns long-term care workers and services for elderly and disabled people. This measure would reinstate background checks, training, and entangling requirements for long-term care workers and providers. It also creates new financial accountability and administrative expenses for the long-term in-home care program.

Although caring for the elderly has the appearance of sweetness and light, the initiative will make long term care more costly without any real improvement. The metrics in the background check are subject to abuse.

Long term elder care is difficult for the care givers. Its tough to become friends with people and then have them die. That makes a turnover problem for the facilities. Adding in background checks will only alienate potential care givers.

Finally no amount of government imposed regulation can actually make one person care about another. The "feel good" aspect of the initiative is bankrupt from the start.

On April 25, the SEIU transferred $500,000 into a new initiative PAC. They hired PCI Consultants, Inc, 26500 Agoura Rd, Calabasas, CA 91302-1952 as their paid signature gathering firm to collect signatures from both I-1163 and I-1167. They recently abandoned the I-1167 signature drive and are now focusing their efforts on I-1163. The SEIU will certainly get I-1163 on the November ballot.

The SIEU government union has the most treasure to spend on a measure which will fatten their bank account, if enacted.

Big government treasure is being used to force I-1163 onto the ballot. Its a clear abuse of power. Impolite recommends you vote no on I-1163.

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Initiative 1183 by Costco, Washington Restaurant Association, NW Grocers Association, et al -- Initiative Measure No. 1183 would privatize the sale and distribution of liquor. The initiative is not as sweeping as I-1100 was.

Washington State imposed controls on liquor after prohibition was lifted in the 1930's At that time, liquor control was presented as promotion of public virtue. The state government makes 52% margin on liquor. Clearly, the state's actual reason is monopolistic pricing.

The state's principle use of liquor profits is to keep the public employees unions available to incumbent legislators. Government corrupts public virtue more effectively than private liquor sales ever could.

Impolite recommends you vote yes on I-1183.

See the Washington Wire discussion for another perspective.

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Legislative referenda will also appear on this Autumn's ballot.

SJR 8205 is a proposed constitutional amendment which would repeal a non-functioning part of the State's Constitution. The specific part is Article 6, Section 1A, which is a residency requirement for citizens who wish to vote in the federal election. The section was rendered inoperable by federal court order in 1976. Finally (or suddenly - depending on your perspective) the matter came to the legislature's attention.

Impolite will vote for SJR 8205, just to tidy up the constitution.

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SJR 8206 strengthens the set-aside requirement for the state's budget stabilization account, or "rainy day" fund, by specifying a portion of "extraordinary" revenue of good years be set aside in the fund. The fund is used to offset some types of shortfalls in years when state revenue is not so good, so that important spending (like school) can proceed.

Opponents of SJR 8206 make a funny argument that voters have not approved SJR 8206 yet, so they shouldn't vote for it. The opponents also view fat and lean years as no impediment to state spending.

Impolite recommends you vote Yes on SJR 8206.

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Note: Normally, Impolite would link the initiative petition number to the sponsors website. But some initiative's campaigns don't have working websites yet, so those initiative numbers are linked to the official text of the initiative petition.

What other people read on this blog

Effing the ineffable - Washington State elections sometimes have been rigged.

“It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”
-- Joseph Stalin