Washington State just loves its initiatives and referendums. The upcoming election has five of them state wide. I'm voting no on all of them but R-55 and I-297.
I-872 – NO
What: This initiative would change Washington's primary system so that in the primary people could choose any person from any party for each person. The top two vote getters would then move on to the general election.
Why: This initiative would allow for outcomes such as elections where both candidates are from the same political party. Are political parties a good idea? If I believe so then I need to vote against I-872 since it would effectively remove political parties from the equation. I think that political parties are a good idea. I think they play an important role in helping to shape a workable representative democracy. Therefore I'm voting no for I-872.
I-884 – NO
What: This initiative would increase Washington's sales tax by 1%. The money so generated would be dedicated exclusively for school funding.
Why: I know, I know, who can vote against schools? I'm not voting against schools, I'm voting against a complete failure of representative democracy. Trying to slice and dice our budget into mandatory contributions makes a mockery of representative government. I also don't believe in applying regressive solutions to solving what are effectively problems of incompetent management. We spend $9,454 per student in this state but we can't manage to reduce class size? Is the problem that we aren't spending enough on education or that we waste oceans of cash on overhead that never sees a student? Dumping more money on the problem won't solve anything. Enough with cowardly government, enough with waste, enough with regressive tax systems. The way to fix education is for our representatives to do their jobs not end run ballots that will, I suspect, do more to bloat the bureaucracy then help real students.
I-892 – NO
What: This initiative would allow existing gambling institutions in Washington to have slot machines in a number equal to those allowed for Indian reservations and then would use a portion of the money generated to reduce property taxes.
Why: Gambling has real costs in terms of damage to the community. Then again, so do factories, transportation systems, etc. In each case the community needs to look at the cost and the benefit and decide if going ahead makes sense. In this case, I believe that I-892 doesn't make sense. Of the 9% of profits that are supposed to go to a state fund from gambling proceeds to reduce property taxes only 1% of that money will go to problem gambling. I have seen nothing that convinces me that this money will be even close to enough to deal with the problems. Who knows, maybe it's more than enough, but the supporters of I-892 don't make a compelling case. What makes this initiative even more suspicious is that its numbers for estimating the money to be paid to the government assume a 75% pay out from machines (e.g. the machines will pay out as winnings 75% of the money that is put into them). I go to Las Vegas enough to know that successful slot machines have to pay northwards of 90% to keep gamblers hooked. What this means is that in practice the slot machines will have higher payoffs and hence lower profits which means less money for the state and which means less money for reducing property taxes or paying to try and treat the negative outcomes of gambling. Bottom line, this referendum is a bad deal and I'm saying no.
R-55 – YES
What: This referendum would approve a state bill that would authorize the creation of charter schools which would receive public funding.
Why: As a card carrying capitalist I like competition. I like it when people with new ideas, new ways of doing things can compete with everyone else. Our monolithic education bureaucracy does nothing to enable competition of different educational approaches. R-55 would go a small way to allowing that competition to occur and I'm all for it.
I-297 – YES
What: Do not allow the Hanford Nuclear Reservation (the most nuclear contaminated spot in North America) to accept any more waste until existing waste is cleaned up.
Why: This bill is supported by "Heart of America" an organization fighting the Yucca Mountain waste site in Nevada. I suspect the theory is that if they can get this law passed in Washington and get it through the courts then they could use a similar law to stop Yucca Mountain. But my guess isn't all that good since apparently there are unique laws that apply to contaminated sites (like Hanford) that wouldn't apply to clean sites like Yucca. Just to complicate things further a lot of the most dangerous waste in Hanford is supposed to be moved to either Nevada or New Mexico. Clearly if Washington passes this law then Nevada and New Mexico will do the same with the result that a lot of very dangerous nuclear waste will stay in Washington. The whole thing is a mess and the provision to allow for civil suits to enforce the law looks like welfare for lawyers. But regardless the damage at Hanford is extensive and I'm dubious as to the likelihood that it will ever be cleaned up without some kind of external forcing function. I think that opening things up to civil lawsuits may result in at least some real pressure. This assumes that the Supreme Court doesn't strike the law down as violating the interstate commerce clause, the ultimate eraser of all state's rights.