Sunday, November 02, 2014

First REAL Vote

On one hand, the two-party system has made electing representatives boring, compared to my first primary. The resulting two candidates were exclusively the pair of vetted Republican and Democrat candidates. In most cases, the GOP candidates that made it through are so far off the rails of sanity (FairTax, anti-net-neutrality, anti-healthcare) that there's not a lot to talk about. However, that is offset by the initiative process, where Washington residents can throw up for a vote just about any idea for which they can collect a few petition signatures. Lots to engage with there!

Initiative 1351
Mandate reduced class sizes in K-12 though hiring 25k employees, at a price tag of $5B in the first four years, and $2B a year after that. No specific guidance where to come up with the money, though this would authorize the school districts to raise property taxes to collect a subset of this (roughly half?).

My biggest question here was: how big (in context) is $4.7B? For this, we can refer to the FY13 Operating Budget, which operates on a two-year cycle. The total pie is ~$60B, though the "Near General Fund-State" (NGFS) portion is only half that at ~$31B. K-12 education is by far the biggest piece of this historically at about $13.6B. The impact in the first four years would be $2.35B per budget, or a 17% increase to K-12 spending, or a 7.6% overall increase in NGFS spending.

Assuming Democrats will never cut anything ever, call it a 7.6% tax increase spent in education. That's a lot of money, but if it dramatically improves school quality in Washington (which has a poor reputation), the money might be worth it. If nothing else, the increased tax bill would be far less than sending my two kids to private schools.

So the real question is, will this dramatically improve school quality?

Well, the real telling factoid I saw was this: of 25,000 new employees, only 7,400 will be teachers.

Clearly something other than class size is driving this proposal, given that most of the employees are not teachers, and that non-employee issues of class size (notably physical space) are largely ignored.

Initiative 591
Why even describe it? It's a one-page proposal, and only a few lines worth of meaningful directive.
  • It is unlawful for any government agency to confiscate guns or other firearms from citizens without due process. 
  • It is unlawful for any government agency to require background checks on the recipient of a firearm unless a uniform national standard is required.
Libertarians against States' rights. Fun. Also completely insane.

Initiative 594
A much longer bill, which prevents the sale or transfer of guns between non-dealers without a background check; the proposed mechanism being that a licensed dealer acts as an intermediary between private parties.

Yes, this law would be illegal under Initiative 591. If both pass, hilarity ensues.

The crux is that there are currently several (legal) means by which you can buy a gun privately without being vetted, and this law intends to close them all. Opponents are concerned that this criminalizes (what they consider) normal behavior, such as lending their guns to friends.

Most of this concern is around "temporary transfers" (ie. lending a gun). The proposal includes exceptions for this category including: spouses, parent-child, anything at a licensed gun range, anything at a shooting event, and hunting.

Advisory: Senate Bill 6505
Advisory = the law already passed, and they ask if you want to maintain or repeal it. The results are completely ignored either way, but they make interesting reading at least.

This prevented the marijuana industry from being counted as agriculture, which apparently gets significant tax breaks. The argument against this is that the end result of being taxed at every stage brings a roughly 44% government tax on marijuana products by the time it reaches the consumer.

Welcome to Washington. We have no income tax. So we sales tax ALL OF THE THINGS!

Advisory: House Bill 1287
Shifts some tax burden away from off-reservation tribal holdings (a notable example often given was Salish Lodge), similar to the benefits that would be given for a local government. Presumably, this tax burden shifts onto the non-tribal land owners in the community, though there isn't an explicit requirement for this.

Tribes are for this because they avoid taxes, though it's phrased as avoiding discrimination compared to a city government. Impacted cities are against this because they lose a significant revenue stream.

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