During the current legislative session, Washington state legislators would be wise to revisit some of their policies and laws that have been pushed through in recent years, despite concerns from many constituents.
If not, Washington residents will have an opportunity to do the job themselves.
West Side conservative interests have introduced six initiatives that appear to have enough signatures to be published on next November's ballot, should the Legislature decide not to act during the current session.
In the past, the Journal has used this space to express concerns about—or outright denounce—three of the laws that the initiatives look to repeal: the Washington Climate Commitment Act, the WA Cares Act, and the capital gains tax.
With Climate Commitment, the cap-and-trade program raised gas prices faster and higher than proponents expected and generated far more income for the state than projected. All can agree that steps need to be taken to reduce carbon emissions over time. However, the program clearly needs to be modified to lessen its impact on business competitiveness and the working class, which is feeling the pressure at the pump and doesn't have the luxury of buying electric vehicles at the premiums they currently command.
The program needs to be modified, at a minimum. As we've stated before, though, programs that incentivize change are more palatable than those that are punitive in nature, and the all-stick, no-carrot approach of the Climate Commitment Act makes it problematic in principle.
The WA Cares Act has created a payroll tax, which the state began collecting last July, to fund a new long-term care program. Through that program, workers who put into the system for 10 years eventually will be able to receive a total maximum benefit of $36,500. People who work fewer than 10 years can receive a partial benefit, but even at the max, the benefit is woefully inadequate to pay for the average person's care needs.
The Legislature pushed forward with the program despite concerns during the last Legislative session, so it's unlikely they'll act to adjust or repeal the act this time around. A year ago, we argued that elected leaders should put the act on a ballot to determine its merit. Now, it appears voters will get their chance to weigh in.
With the capital gains measure, opponents were surprised when the tax survived legal challenges. The tax appears to be a thinly-disguised income tax, which is unconstitutional in Washington state, but the courts didn't see it that way this time around. If the Legislature doesn't act, voters will get an opportunity to determine its fate.
The other initiatives involve a ban on income taxes imposed by local governments, a loosening of restrictions on law enforcement, and a change to parents' options for public-school children.
Overall, the initiatives represent a body of work that suggest the state's elected leaders aren't listening to a portion of their constituents, and those residents are looking for other avenues to be heard.
It isn't too late for leaders to act, however, and we hope they do so in the next few weeks.
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