Saturday, October 17, 2015

Political Desk: Referendums

Remember when I said that the perennial Eyeman Initiatives are mostly unconstitutional? Here's where we deal with the wreckage of one of them. Referendums are bill passed by the Legislature which are then presented to the people for a double-check. This is usually used for more controversial bills to make sure that the reps are doing their job, or more pedestrian ones where they are mucking with the language of the state constitution.

BUT, there was an Eyeman Initiative a few years ago that was found only partially unconstitutional. The bit about requiring super-majorities to get things done? That was unconstitutional. But the bit about demanding to present these to the people, that was allowed to stand. Except it in a non-binding vote, so these referendums cannot really change things, but can express one's displeasure at the entire process. It is sort of a big opinion poll, and doesn't mean anything.

And as an opinion poll, its pretty crappy as well. The language is of the type "The legislature imposed ..." which is to say "The legislature did its JOB," but imposed is a scarier word. The amount of revenue that measures will raise are presented as a "Cost". This isn't a cost to the state, using your money. This is a cost to the people who are going to be affected by this particular tax or loophole closing. Sometimes, this group is relatively small, sometimes it is large enough to include the vast bulk of voters. But there is no way of knowing without digging deeper into the bills. And this amount is what the bill is expected to raise over TEN YEARS, so that huge price tag is amortized over a decade, but is something else left out of the summary.

In addition, while Initiatives have arguments presented for and against, referendums are not so required, so no one knows a whole lot about them. Thanks, guys.

So what we need is a referendum about referendums. Good luck with that. Let's see what's on the plate this year:

Advisory Vote 10 raises taxes on oil products transported by rail in the state. This is because we're transporting a lot more oil through the state from until-recently-bountiful oil shales of the Dakotas, and the oil companies and rail operations are woefully if not criminally inept in keeping their trains from not blowing up. Puts 17 million in the state's pocket from those transporters over ten years.

Advisory Vote 11 raises taxes on medical marijuana sales, as part of a larger measure to get med mary jane in line with other marijuana sales. They don't know how much this is going to bring in, because the legislators kept getting distracted at the free samples station. Actually, Washington State, so good in so many things, is a textbook case of how to bobble the ball on marijuana legislation, such that Oregon is already ahead of us. Oregon. Yeah, we should be embarrassed by that.

Advisory Vote 12 - This is a biggie - 3.7 billion (over ten years, but still, that's a lot of cash) raised from the bulk of consumers in the form of a increase to the gasoline tax. This one IS coming out of your pocket, and it is aimed at getting more funds for roads and mass transit. And before you start yelling about how the Dems are all tax and spend, this one was put together by our Republican-controlled upper house of the legislature, who, unlike some is other states (I'm looking at YOU, Kansas), is pretty good at facing realities.

Advisory Vote 13 - Raises 1.4 Billion over ten years by closing loopholes on the Business & Operating (B&O) and Sales Tax, with the intent of funding education. No, that's not quite it. It basically closes a loophole for taxes from software that is delivered online as opposed to through physical stores, and is aimed at manufacturers of a particular size. Which is currently defined as Microsoft. Microsoft is picking up the tab on this, and is apparently cool with the deal. Given that I usually haul out corporations for the largess laid upon them by the local government, I find this development .... interesting.

So, MAINTAINED on all on them (though I am wobbly on #11), but its not as if anyone is going to pay attention to it. Draw a cat on the ballot. See if I care.

More later,