Issues

2010 State Initiatives

 

Lakewood Chamber of Commerce
Policy Position
Yes on I-1053 - Restore the will of the people

 

The Lakewood Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors support Initiative 1053.

Tax increases are putting our economic recovery at risk. 

Faced with a $2.8 billion deficit this past winter, state lawmakers acted quickly to remove the two-thirds vote requirement and added nearly $800 in new taxes and fees. This is the same provision Washington voters approved three times before: First in 1993, in 1998 and most recently, in 2007.

With another $3 billion budget deficit looming on the horizon, taxpayers need Initiative 1053 in place to encourage prioritized state spending and prevent additional tax increases. Yes on 1053 will help hold state lawmakers accountable for their actions and force them to prioritize service.

It will protect the jobs we have and give employers the certainty they need to add new jobs.  Not chase jobs away.

Don’t let the recovery bypass Washington state.  Restore the will of the people with Yes on 1053.

 

 

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Lakewood Chamber of Commerce
Policy Position
Yes to I-1082 - Competitive Option in Workers’ Compensation

 

The Lakewood Chamber Board of Directors supports I-1082, recognizing we’re out of step with the rest of the nation.

Washington is one of only 4 states where the government has a monopoly on workers’ compensation. In 46 other states, employers can buy workers’ compensation from private insurers.

While workers’ comp taxes are falling around the country, Washington is one of only a handful of states increasing taxes this year. Oregon has not increased rates in 20 years – and employers there are actually experiencing rate decreases in 2010.

Washington has the second-highest cost per employee for workers’ compensation. We provide the third most generous benefit package in the nation. There’s no such thing as a high-benefit/low-cost system.

Although some studies claim to show Washington has comparatively low workers’ compensation costs, the Department admits they have intentionally adopted inadequate rates ~ and now the system is facing insolvency.

In Washington, the average injured worker with a time-loss claim misses 270 days of work – more than twice the national average. Oregon’s average time loss rate is about 70 days.

We have the highest pension rate in the nation. More than 50% of injured workers are likely to receive a pension from L&I if they’ve been off work more than two years. In fact, pension rates have increased more than 300% since 1996.

A recent report from the State Auditor says our state’s Accident Fund faces a 74.4 percent chance of insolvency within two years. Within five years, the chance is 90%.

Five years ago, the West Virginia legislature passed a bill to transition their government-run workers’ compensation system into a competitive market.  The result?   Claim protests have fallen 68 percent and the overall appeals process has been streamlined resulting in claims disputes being resolved in a shorter period of time.  Claimants have received better claim management by claims adjusters having fewer claims to manage.  Overall premiums have dropped 30 percent, or more than $150 million.

If the goal of workers’ compensation is to assist injured workers in the best way possible while maintaining a competitive business environment, shouldn’t we look at examples where both are apparently taking place?

 

 

 

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Lakewood Chamber of Commerce
Policy Position
YES on Initiative 1100

 

The Lakewood Chamber of Commerce supports Initiative 1100 by modernizing Washington’s prohibition-era “blue laws” by privatizing liquor sales.

The main goal behind this initiative to the people is contained in Section 1:

The people of Washington State desire that the Liquor Control Board focus on its core mission of education and enforcement to protect the health, welfare and safety of the citizens.

In order to strengthen the agency to more effectively educate the public, combat abuse, collect tax revenue and enforce state liquor laws, the Washington State Liquor Control Board will stop selling liquor and end its Prohibition-era monopoly on selling distilled spirits. The state will license the sale of distilled spirits to strictly regulated vendors who are already proven to be responsible sellers of beer and wine.

This initiative will improve regulations to prevent abusive and underage drinking, enforce licensing regulations and collect taxes for the State’s general fund.

The Initiative accomplishes this goal by creating these changes to existing law that is called Title 66 in the Revised Code of Washington.

Washington State’s Liquor Control Board [LCB] will no longer sell liquor.

LCB will end their current contracts with contract liquor stores.

Current operators in good standing of contract stores will receive licenses to continue in business as a private retailer, if they wish to continue operating.

LCB will no longer distribute spirits. The state distribution warehouse will be sold to generate money for the state.

A new distributor can be licensed and may buy from any licensed distillery and sell to licensed vendors just like beer and wine sellers.

Any store or distributor currently licensed to sell beer or wine, and in good standing, will be able to obtain a license to sell spirits, for an additional license fee.

Local jurisdictions throughout the State can determine how many outlets they will allow in their city via zoning regulations.

The state’s ‘mark-up’ on spirits is eliminated.

The existing tax on liquor will remain and it will be up to the Legislature to adjust the amount of tax.

The initiative mentions a 10% tax on purchases of spirits by restaurants. This is not a new tax or a tax increase. This is a technical update to current law, and merely requires private sellers to collect the existing tax which is now collected only by state stores.

Repeals the “Three-Tier System”, a set of Prohibition-era “blue laws” that grant monopoly privileges to middlemen, at the detriment of consumers.

All license fees from the new licenses to sell spirits may only be used for enforcing liquor laws and educating the public against underage drinking and other abusive alcohol consumption.

 

 

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Lakewood Chamber of Commerce
Policy Position
Yes to Initiative 1107

 

The Lakewood Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors support Initiative 1107 that will repeal recent tax increases on thousands of common food and beverage products adopted by the 2010 Washington State Legislature.

The tax increases are expected to cost Washington consumers and businesses more than $300 million over the next three years alone. These tax increases also impose costly new red tape and bookkeeping requirements on every local grocery store and market in the state, as well as on hundreds of Washington businesses that make and handle food and beverage products.

In this tough economy, the Board believes it's simply wrong to increase the grocery bills of Washington businesses and families by imposing taxes on food and beverage products

Voters have clearly shown that they want the opportunity to vote out these costly and arbitrary food and beverage tax hikes that the Legislature voted in. These new tax increases were imposed without adequate public input or public hearings. Initiative 1107 will give voters their say."

The new tax scheme the Legislature imposed on bottled water, soft drinks, candy products and processed food is arbitrary, complicated and wrong.  It hurts Washington food store owners, bottlers and food processors who are already struggling to stay in business. And, it sets a dangerous precedent. The politicians should not be allowed to think that taxing groceries is an acceptable way to solve their budget mess. By voting YES on 1107, Washington voters can send a clear message that they don't want higher taxes on food and beverages - now or in the future."

 

 

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Lakewood Chamber of Commerce
Policy Position
No to Initiative 1098

 

The Lakewood Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors opposes a state income tax.  If this state income tax on “the rich” is passed, a simple majority of the legislature can extend an income tax to everyone in just two years.

After two years a simple majority of the legislature can amend, delay or repeal any initiative passed by the voters. Thus, the policy makers in Olympia can easily expand this state income tax to everyone.

In recent years, the legislature has been very willing to ignore voter-approved initiatives on spending limits, tax increases, education funding and other matters.  Previous income tax proposals have usually been “revenue neutral” and designed to redistribute the tax burden without increasing overall collections. Initiative 1098 is simply a tax increase, one of the largest in history, with no meaningful relief provided.

The 1098 income tax will face an immediate constitutional challenge.  The state Supreme Court previously ruled that a graduated income tax was unconstitutional. If that ruling is overturned, there will be no limits on the legislature’s ability to expand the tax to all Washingtonians.

Just remember, the sales tax started at just one percent and keeps increasing. It is now is now almost 10 percent.

The supporters of Initiative 1098 say that the revenues from a state income tax would be used for education and health programs, but the truth is that the legislature can spend the funds however it wants.

Legislators have routinely raided “dedicated accounts.” Past legislative alterations of initiatives for education (I-728 class size, I-732 teacher pay, I-620 death tax) and health services (cigarette taxes) demonstrate that Olympia cannot be trusted with this state income tax.

Both the education and health programs funded by the state are in need of reform. But the 1098 income tax simply preserves the status quo without any accountability or reform requirements.

The 1098 income tax squarely hits small business owners, effectively doubling the cost of the current Business & Occupation tax. Sixty eight percent of those earning $200,000 or more are small business owners. These businesses pay 70 percent of the small business wages and pay 80 to 90 percent of the state’s B&O tax burden. They provide jobs, buy goods and services and help drive our state’s diverse economy. This tax would weaken our fragile economy at precisely the wrong time.

The B&O tax credit 1098 offers is too low to apply to businesses owners targeted by this proposed income tax.

States with steeply progressive income taxes (California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, & Oregon) have experienced sluggish economic growth.

Our innovative technology economy is highly mobile. Wealth and talent migrate to states to avoid punitive and progressive income taxes.  An income tax in Washington is a bad idea.

 

 

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Lakewood Chamber of Commerce
Policy Position
No to Initiative 1105

 

The Lakewood Chamber Board of Directors opposes Initiative 1105.

Although similar in language to Initiative I-1100, that the Board supports by privatizing the wholesale and retail sale of hard liquor in Washington.  1100 would repeal the “Three-Tier System”, a set of Prohibition-era “blue laws” which grant monopoly privileges to middlemen (distributors), at the detriment of consumers.

Initiative 1105, on the other hand, allows the state to set price controls, preventing massive volume discounts, which proponents say would supposedly benefit smaller retailers.  I-1105 also allows the state to set the price of liquor licenses as a percent of volume of liquor sold by a vendor, meaning large stores like Costco would pay more for their licenses than small mom and pops. This aspect of I-1105 would also benefit the state, as it would supposedly gain more revenue through the volume-based license fees.

 

 

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Lakewood Chamber of Commerce
Policy Position
Oppose Referendum 52

 

The Lakewood Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors opposes Referendum 52.
 
This year, the legislature and governor approved the bill putting it on the November ballot.  If voters say "yes" to Referendum 52, the retrofits would mean new heating and cooling systems, plumbing, and lighting.  Recently, the Association of Washington Business challenged the language in R52 in court and the judge agreed.  The language must not infer there will be new job creation and that the tax on bottled water to be repealed in 2013 would remain permanent.  The Chamber also doubts whether the energy savings are really worth spending a half billion dollars.

Revenue generated to pay back these bonds would come from the state's general fund.  That is money that could go to other state programs.  Supporters added a line in the bill that would make a tax on bottled water permanent.  It does not tie the bottled water tax directly to school construction.  It is just extra money for the general fund.

But that leads to another twist.  There is another ballot measure in November to eliminate the bottled water tax.  If voters say yes to that too, the state may have to figure out how to pay for retrofitting schools.

The Board believes it is just a bad time for the state to spend this much money.  If we can’t afford what is already being spent, why would we take on more debt?

 

 

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Lakewood Chamber of Commerce

Policy Position

Oppose Referendum 8225

 

 

The Lakewood Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors opposes Referendum 8225.

 

The state’s constitutional debt limit protects the integrity of our economy by preventing the state from borrowing more than is can reasonably pay back.  Any changes to this could challenge the integrity of our state’s economy,

 

The Washington State Constitution limits the general obligation debt by restricting the treasurer’s authority to issue bonds exceeding 9 percent of the average general state revenue for the preceding three years.  The treasurer issues debt limit bonds to finance capital projects and sells bonds twice a year to cover expected payments on construction projects.

 

SJR 8225 would amend our constitution to allow the interest calculation on debt used to determine the debt limit, by subtracting federal subsidies.

 

If approved, SJR 8225 would allow the treasurer to take on more debt.  The state of Washington is in the midst of a budget crisis.  Now is not the time to run the risk of overextending the state’s credit.  Adding too much debt could have a devastating effect on the rest of Washington’s investments and place enormous financial burdens on taxpayers and their children.

 

During the 2010 session, the Legislature struggled to adopt an operating and capital budget because spending was outpacing revenues by billions of dollars.  In the end, taxes were raised and a second measure was adopted that asks voters to approve additional borrowing beyond the state debt limit.

 

Now is the time for fiscal responsibility, not more debt through accounting gimmicks. 

 

Do not be deceived.  Savings are not created by increasing our borrowing capacity.  Build America Bonds is a temporary federal program to subsidize temporary government jobs – burdening taxpayers with more long-term debt and giving more federal (IRS) control over state spending.  The real winners?  Wall Street – they’ve already made millions.  Investors (of which many are foreign)  have been flipping these bonds like houses.  Change our addiction to spending, not our Constitution.

 

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Lakewood Chamber of Commerce

Policy Position

Support Referendum 4220

 

 

The proposed constitutional amendment would authorize courts to deny bail in an additional class of cases:  offenses punishable by the possibility of life in prison where there is a showing by clear and convincing evidence of a propensity for violence that creates a substantial likelihood of danger to the community or any persons.  The legislature would have authority to set limitations on the denial of bail in these cases.

 

Currently our Constitution permits a judge to deny bail only if a suspect is charged with aggravated murder.  This proposal broadens the criteria for denying bail to persons charged with crimes potentially punishable by life in prison, when the suspect is truly dangerous.  The amendment does not take away civil liberties, such as the right to bail, speedy trial or the presumption of innocence.  Voting “yes” gives judges the flexibility to keep the most dangerous offenders behind bars while awaiting trial.

 

Sadly, Lakewood and other cities in Washington has had a number of high profile criminal tragedies in recent times.  Judges currently must set bail based only upon flight risk.  Some violent crimes might have been avoided if the judge could have denied bail based on the offender’s level of danger.  The Washington Legislature passed this proposed change almost unanimously in the House and Senate, to give judges this ability to protect the public.  Voting “yes” on this amendment will help prevent future tragedies.

 

 

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