Out-of-state special interest groups are trying to buy their way onto our November ballot and threaten our state’s economic recovery. The national beverage industry has spent over $1.2 million thus far to hire crews of professional signature gatherers who are clogging up grocery stores, ferry lines and other busy places to gather signatures on Initiative 1107, which would strip critical funding from state health care, education, and senior services programs.
I-1107 proponents are deceiving potential signers, saying I-1107 will repeal a non-existent “food tax” on basic groceries. Their expensive mailer claims I-1107 is about a tax passed “in the dead of night” without public input.
In fact, I-1107 would repeal taxes on non-essential items like soda pop, candy, gum, and bottled water. These small, mostly temporary taxes, which will pay for the Basic Health program and K-12 education, were passed earlier this year by the Legislature after months of debate, including an extended special session. Both the public and high-paid national beverage industry lobbyists got their chances to talk with legislators.
The national beverage industry has only three weeks to collect 300,000 signatures in Washington, and they’re paying signature gathering firms an extraordinary amount of money per signature. By contrast, the mostly temporary taxes that will protect health care and education are very small—e.g. 2 cents per bottle of water or can of soda.
The Legislature turned to these new revenues only after cutting $4 billion from Basic Health program and nursing homes, and suspending class size initiatives passed by voters in prior years.
The need for affordable health care is more apparent than ever. The Office of the Insurance Commissioner estimates there are almost one million uninsured people in our state. Because of the recession and the budget cuts made over the past few years, communities like ours have already lost valuable health care programs and workers, lost teachers and seen class sizes jump.
The math is simple. If I-1107 passes, the Legislature will have to make additional cuts to core services. Cuts to Basic Health and other health care programs could leave our state ill-prepared to capitalize on health care reform.
Decisions about the way Washington State funds core programs and services should not be made by out-of-state corporations willing to spend millions to manipulate the democratic process. They should be made by those we elect to represent us in Olympia.
A broad coalition of health care, education and labor organizations is organizing a “Decline to Sign” effort to protect basic health care and education funding. For more information, go to: http://oureconomicfuture.org/.
Rebecca Kavoussi is a Rainier Valley community member & parent, and Assistant Vice President of Government Affairs at Community Health Network of Washington.