Originally published Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 4:23 PM

In crisis, Washington Legislature should suspend Initiative 1163

The Seattle Times editorial board argues that legislators should suspend Initiative 1163.

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THE voters approved Initiative 1163, to require more training for home-health-care workers and have the state pay for the training for workers in state programs. Legislators are wondering whether they have the moral authority to suspend this measure, which requires a two-thirds vote. They do and they should.

I-1163 was sponsored by the Service Employees International Union, which represents the affected workers in state programs. The union filed several proposals with the secretary of state that had funding sources. One was a $1-a-pack tax on cigarettes. Others were $1 a liter on liquor, half a percent property tax on jet aircraft, a one-twentieth of a cent increase in the general sales tax, ending the sales-tax exemption for nonresidents, and imposition of the sales tax on theater tickets and travel-agent commissions.

The problem with any of these proposals was that the addition of the tax made them more difficult to sell to voters. It was a reminder to voters that things cost money and that wishes aren't free. The SEIU went forward with I-1163, which has no funding source.

Essentially I-1163 says to legislators, "Find $36 million per biennium and spend it on this. We do not care where you find the money. That is your problem."

In a fat year, this would not matter. This year, it does. The state budget, including a reasonable ending balance, is $2 billion short. In this situation it is not reasonable to puff up a state program without adding a funding source unless it is an emergency, which this is not.

Legislators are being quoted saying that I-1163 makes no sense, but they are going to fund it because the people voted for it. The people voted for an end but not a means. The Legislature is not obligated to provide the means.

Suspend Initiative 1163, and send this message to all initiative sponsors: If you want something that costs the government money, provide a way to pay for it.


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