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Originally published Monday, July 18, 2011 at 3:39 PM

Initiative 1163: Why no funding source, SEIU?

The Seattle Times editorial board opposes Initiative 1163 as bad — and cynical — policy.

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INITIATIVE 1163, which will be on the statewide ballot in November, is bad policy and cynical politics combined.

The bad policy we have commented on before. The new initiative is almost a copy of another that passed in 2008 to increase the training required of long-term-care workers. While agreeing that training is a good thing, this page opposed that measure because it was an example of a special interest writing law for itself.

The interest was the Service Employees International Union, which represents long-term-care workers in state programs. The union had been in negotiation over a bill in the Legislature that would have increased worker training. It did not like the bill, and used its influence to block it from a final vote and ran the ballot measure instead. That way, it could write the proposed law to favor itself.

For example, the union made sure its members would be paid while trained, and that the cost would be picked up by taxpayers.

The initiative passed in 2008 but did not include any new tax or fee to raise the $30 million per biennium it was expected to cost, and this year the Legislature did not fund it. Instead of going back to the Legislature, the union is going back to the voters to order training again.

Now the cynical part. The SEIU's attorney filed several versions of the new ballot measure that included taxes to pay for it. There was $1 a pack on cigarettes, $1 a liter on liquor, half a percent property tax on jet aircraft, another one-twentieth of a percent of general sales tax, ending the sales-tax exemption for nonresidents, and imposition of the sales tax on theater tickets and travel-agent commissions, etc.

Each one of these taxes would provoke opposition and might defeat the initiative. So the proposal for which signatures were actually collected has no revenue sources. It boldly instructs the state, in effect, to "find the money somehow and spend it on us."

In this economy, that is totally irresponsible.

As we said three years ago, the training requirements for long-term-care workers is a specialized issue that belongs in the Legislature, not on the ballot.


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