Friday, October 14, 2011

Chamber Recommendations on Ballot Initiatives

The Chamber recommends support for I-1183 and opposition to I-1125 and I-1163.

Initiative 1183 (Concerning Beer, Wine, Spirits): SUPPORT
The Chamber supports Washington State Initiative 1183 proposing to close state liquor stores and sell their assets; license private parties to sell and distribute spirits; set license fees based on sales; regulate licensees; and change regulation of wine distribution.

Initiative 1183 would allow for the direct purchase of wine and liquor from manufacturers. The State would continue to regulate the industry as well as collect a license issuance fee of 17% plus $166 from retailers. In addition, distributor license fees would be collected at a variable rate. The Washington Office of Financial Management estimates State General Fund revenues would increase between $216 and $253 million over six years, not including the sale of existing state liquor stores.

Initiative 1125 (Concerning state expenditures on transportation): OPPOSE
The Chamber opposes Washington State Initiative 1125 proposing to prohibit the use of motor vehicle fund revenue and vehicle toll revenue for non-transportation purposes, and require that road and bridge tolls be set by the legislature and be project specific.

Chamber program Downtown On the Go’s Board of Directors endorses the “No on I-1125” campaign because I-1125 threatens current and planned transportation and transit projects, negatively impacts transportation demand management policies and funding mechanisms, and puts tolling rates in the hands of legislators rather than an rather than an independent commission of transportation experts. These actions threaten programs like Downtown On the Go and its work to ease congestion and improve mobility for all transportation users.

Tolls have been used more frequently by the state to fund a portion of costs for projects since the project is more directly and equitably funded by the users of the projects than other sources like gasoline or motor vehicle taxes.

Some of the projects that this initiative is intended to halt include the Vancouveer to Portland Columbia River Crossing, the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, and the Alaskan Way Viaduct, as well as Pierce County's own completion of SR-167.

By shifting the tolling setting authority from an independent body to the Legislature would increase the cost of bonds. The bonds secured by toll revenue would become prohibitively expensive and would be unprecedented nationally. This would reduce bonding capacity, and the ability to build future projects.

Initiative 1163 (Concerning long-term care workers and services for elderly and disabled people): OPPOSE
The Chamber opposes Washington State Initiative 1163 proposing to reinstate federal background checks, training and other requirements for long-term care workers and providers; and address financial accountability and administrative expenses of the long-term in-home care program.

In 2008, Washington State voters passed a law requiring federal background checks and more than twice as much training for long-term care workers. With the current budget constraints in Olympia, the Legislature suspended implementation of this law to impact workers hired on or after January 1, 2014. This initiative would move the implementation date forward to January 2012. In addition, the measure would require additional performance audits of the state's in-home care program as well as a 10% limitation on the state's expenditures towards administration.

The costs of this measure are estimated at $31.3 million over six years with $18.4 million of that being offset with additional revenue from the federal government. Without additional revenue options, this initiative will require funds to be secured from other sources and/or programs.

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