Big Oil and Big Soda stopped some bad ideas from becoming law.
Thank you, Big Oil. And thank you, Big Soda.
I have a number of friends who deeply resented all the money you spent to sway their votes on Initiative 1631 and Initiative 1634. Your propaganda, they say, made them want to vote against you. (They would have voted against you anyway.) I’ll have to admit that some of the junk you stuffed in my mailbox was pretty bad, but propaganda doesn’t bother me. I vote the way I want — and this year I lined up with Big Soda and Big Oil.
Much of Big Oil’s propaganda against the tax on fuel refiners was that it exempted people — the aviation, maritime and farm people — and was therefore unfair. Fairness had nothing to do with it; it would have been stupid to handicap the state’s signature industries. The fairness argument was junk, just as the environmentalists said.
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The real trouble with the fuel tax was that it was going to give a stream of tax money in perpetuity to a group of 15 privileged people appointed by the governor. The measure specified an appointee from labor, one from the tribes, various bureaucrats, et cetera. You can imagine the group. It would have changed over time only as the governor changed. Since one party has controlled the governor’s chair in Washington for the past 30 years and looks to control it for the next 30, this little group would have been virtually untouchable.
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Furthermore — a point I never saw mentioned — the measure would have allowed the stream of tax money to be bonded. Bonding would have allowed this unelected group to claw future revenue into the present, creating a mountain of cash to spend. Maybe they would have spent it on something I approved of — stormwater treatment, for example — but they might also have spent it on some fantasy like replacing the Snake River dams with solar panels. The spending of billions of dollars of tax money needs to be accountable to the public, and under the proposed initiative it was not.
Finally, if the money were bonded, which it no doubt would have been, the underlying tax could not have been repealed — because that would impair the rights of the bondholders. Years ago, Sound Transit bonded a new tax right away, partly for just that sort of protection.
The other measure, Initiative 1634, was promoted by Big Soda as a ban on further taxes on groceries, which are a necessity of life. Everyone knew the measure was really about taxes on sugary drinks, which are not necessities of life. The propaganda for 1634 was not technically a lie, but essentially it was. Then again, when the Seattle City Council passed the tax on sugary drinks (but not on candy bars, cookies, cakes, doughnuts and breakfast cereal), they said it was not for all the money they would get to spend but for the public health. Was that a lie?
Be honest, now.
For years I have heard Seattle progressives denounce the U.S. Supreme Court for unleashing private industry’s political speech under the false doctrine that corporations are people. The decision to which they refer, Citizens United, also unleashed labor unions, environmental groups, Indian tribes and other not-for-profit groups under the doctrine that they are also people. And they are, in the same way corporations are, though I never hear the progressives complain about it.
The right of political speech includes the right of both sides to speak junk. And every two years that is what they do. We can be thankful that this year’s junkfest is over — but admit also that some of the junk was on your side.
I think I’ll have a doughnut.