You certainly don't need our help marking your ballot in some of this year's high-profile contests. We imagine you've already made up your mind on the big-ticket items such as R-74, the gay marriage referendum.

(If not: PubliCola says Approve R-74. It clashes with Washington State's ideals—and the establishment clause of the US Constitution, by the way—to prevent people from getting married because someone else's religious beliefs don't permit it.)

But you knew that.

However, there are a number of down-ballot items, where it's not exactly clear how to vote: Should you vote for the lefty Democrat or the lefty Democrat in the race for the open state house seat in North Seattle's 46th Legislative District? Should you approve Senate Joint Resolution 8221 to lower the state's debt limit from nine percent to eight percent? Who should our next State Auditor be? And, huh?We elect Supreme Court Justices?

And there is, in fact, one high-profile ballot measure—I-1240, the charter schools measure—that isn't an approve-or-reject no-brainer. 

PubliCola will be rolling out endorsements on a select batch of races and measures over the course of this week where the choices aren't already 100 percent clear. First up, some tricky statewide measures—Eds.

PubliCola Picks Reject on Engrossed SJR 8221

Like the federal government, we have a debt limit debate of our own in Washington State.

Republicans and a lot of fiscally conservative Democrats say the state's bonding capacity for capital projects needs to be reined in. Currently, debt on bonding is capped at nine percent of sales tax and B&O tax revenues averaged over the previous three years. We're currently spending about $2 billion a biennium, which advocates of the stricter limit argue compromises spending on social services.

However, we see it in exactly the opposite terms.

There's an added benefit for social spending—capital spending creates jobs, which energizes the economy.

Having more leeway, not less, to bond big projects doesn't sap spending on social services. If anything, without bonding breathing room, legislators are forced to make capital spending compete even more directly with social service spending. And there's an added benefit for social spending—capital spending creates jobs, which energizes the economy and boosts resources for social spending even as the need declines.

While the proposal in front of voters lowers the cap from nine to  eight percent, there was a compromise thrown in to entice liberals: it would be based on a six-year average and be extended to include property tax revenues—potentially bringing in more, and more stable, funding.

We don't think the compromise alleviates the problem of tying the legislature's hands behind its back, though. And with the two-thirds rule still in effect, the legislature is blindfolded as well. 

A $1 billion bonding bill that passed the legislature last session brought liberals (labor) and conservatives (business) together this year. We don't want to inhibit that kind of bipartisan thinking by limiting the legislature's options.

PubliCola Picks Approve on SJR 8223

Higher education funding has been decimated in recent years: Over the last two recession-era biennium budgets higher ed has taken a $1.4 billion hit falling from 14 percent of the stat's budget pie to 8.5 percent—a 39 percent freefall. Meanwhile, student tuition at the UW, for example, has nearly doubled, going from $6,615 a year in 2008-09 to $12,401 now.

This measure would allow the UW and WSU to invest the money it does get from the state in the stock market—adding university investments to a list of exemptions, which also includes public pensions, from the constitutional prohibition on investing public money on private stocks.

We're a little nervous asking you to sign off on a proposal that would allow public money to make its way to the stock market (and potentially be held in accounts awaiting a good return, rather than going promptly to students). And we also don't like the idea of condoning the legislature's negligence by greenlighting substitute sources of revenue for the UW and WSU in the wake of a faltering state commitment.

But the prospect of other sources of revenue is simply too compelling to turn down.

Estimated to bring in an additional $10 million a year to the UW and WASU—and with the State Investment Board overseeing the funds—we agree with the Democratic leadership and student lobbyists who advocated for this necessary solution.

PubliCola picks Maintain on Advisory Votes Nos. 1 and 2. 

There are two other low-profile measures—advisory votes No. 1, Engrossed Senate Bill 6635 (ending a big bank loophole on interest earned on first mortgages) and No. 2, Substitute House Bill 2590 (extending a petroleum tax.)

Tim Eyman's original two-thirds requirement measure petulantly mandated that even when the two-thirds threshold is met, voters still get to issue a round of boos for raising taxes. We advise hearty applause.

Vote yes on both of these.

Why?

It's not just because overturning the big bank exemption is fair play and, bonus, repealing it will bring in $170 million over ten years.  And it's not just because renewing the tax on oil-based products will bring in $24 million over ten years for related pollution programs. And in fact, these are just advisory votes (meaning voters are just registering their opinion; the legislation stands regardless of how you vote because they both passed with more than a two-thirds majority.)

Vote yes because of this: I-960, Tim Eyman's original two-thirds requirement measure petulantly mandated that even when the two-thirds threshold is met, voters still get to issue a round of boos for raising taxes.

Ha. We advise hearty applause. Voters should cheer taxes on pollution and reining in big bank loopholes.