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Deja Voting 

If two of this season's initiatives sound familiar, it's because we've voted on them before.

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No on Washington Initiative 1125
Regarding tolls to pay for roads

Tim Eyman’s latest initiative aims to micromanage how the state can fund transportation projects via tolls. He says he’s not against them; he just wants the Legislature to be in charge of setting those tolls, not the state’s governor-appointed Transportation Commission. (The Legislature already is called upon to determine whether a project can or can’t use tolls to pay its way.)

Or maybe Eyman is out to kill toll roads, as I-1125 could well have the effect of ending the state’s ability to fund road projects that way. Public finance experts say putting the decision in the political arena would make potential investors in the public bonds worry, therefore the interest rate the state would pay would be higher to reflect the risk. They may become too expensive to pencil out.

This is really a Western Washington fight, as the Puget Sound region struggles to keep up with growth relying on a gas tax revenue stream that’s mostly tapped out. Now they want to do some road projects paid by tolls. In other words, local Seattle drivers would pay for those local projects. For Eastern Washington, this is much preferred to an expansion of the statewide gas tax that would pay for roads we rarely drive on. Keeping the option of toll roads available to Western Washington transportation planners is in our best interest.

Yes on Washington Initiative 1163
Regarding long-term health care workers

We supported this initiative when it was I-1029 and it passed in 2008. Now I-1163 is here to reiterate the need for better training and more rigorous background checks for long-term health care workers. The state has so far declined to fully enact I-1029, citing the state’s budget problems — if there’s no money, there’s no money. Still, reaffirming as the will of the people these changes to protect our most vulnerable citizens is important. When the state’s financial outlook improves, the Legislature can enforce I-1163

No on Wash. Initiative 1183
Regarding state-run liquor sales

Here's a second do-over of the 2011 initiative season — the effort to move the sale of hard liquor from the state to private businesses. You’ll recall we voted on this last year, when two similar initiatives (1100 and 1105) confused everyone. Both failed.

Behind the scenes, this is a battle between businesses large and small, involving issues both arcane (how alcohol is distributed in the state) and conspicuous (how we pay for our state government). To the average consumer, it’s a question of keeping hard liquor sales in about 300 state run outlets or expanding it to 1,500 or more.

But behind the scenes is where you need to look closer. Put on the ballot by retail giants like Costco and Safeway, this change in the law would be very good for them — not only by giving them a whole new product line to sell, but also by allowing them to take control of distribution. There’s nothing wrong with allowing business to flourish, but we must consider the known costs and uncertainties. While I-1183 puts new fees and taxes on liquor, there’s no telling whether this will wind up being a net gain or net loss for the state of Washington. Remember: Instead of having an income tax like California, Washington taxes things we consume, especially liquor and cigarettes, to pay the bills. The proponents’ claim that 1183 will cut the price of liquor is also just speculation.

What is true, however, is that Washington has a 96 percent rate of compliance in selling liquor only to adults; the average grocery store in the rest of the nation hits more like 75 percent — meaning 25 percent of underage kids are at risk. Such statistics have led the Centers for Disease Control to advise against the privatization of liquor sales where it is under consideration.

If I-1183 is passed, big-box retailers would be given a big edge over small businesses. In fact, only retailers with 10,000 square feet and above would be allowed to sell hard alcohol. That’s the problem with having interested parties write public policy — they inevitably pick winners and losers. And we have too much to lose on this one.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Spokane County ballots will start to be mailed out on Oct. 21.

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