DON BRUNELL: Spokane proposition is overly vague

Maybe it’s something in the water, but there are some screwy ballot proposals popping up these days – none wilder than Spokane’s Proposition 4.

By Don Brunell

Maybe it’s something in the water, but there are some screwy ballot proposals popping up these days – none wilder than Spokane’s Proposition 4.

Proposition 4 is the brainchild of a group called Envision Spokane, a coalition of left-leaning activists, union members and environmentalists who pooled their wish lists into “a community bill of rights.”

Proposition 4 amends the city charter to create an expansive and expensive bundle of vague new rights. For example, Prop. 4 would extend the prevailing wage and apprentice quota requirements to all private construction projects larger than $2 million, as well as to publicly subsidized projects (e.g., low-income housing projects financed with a combination of private and public money).

The measure would also extend the wage to all public projects. It also creates a right to a “locally-based economy,” “affordable preventive health care,” “affordable and safe housing,” and “affordable and renewable energy.” People would also have the right to “determine the future of their neighborhoods.”

Who will enforce all these vague, undefined new rights? Everybody! Envision Spokane says, “Any person, neighborhood, or neighborhood council…could file a lawsuit to enforce their rights.”

Can you say, “endless litigation?”

You wonder if these folks are in touch with reality.

Who is going to pay for all this? One in 10 Washington workers is unemployed. Many others are underemployed or have given up looking for work.

Where will we get the money to provide all the rights guaranteed by Proposition 4 when employers, including government, schools and nonprofits, can’t meet payroll today?

Nationally, our deficit has ballooned to about $9 trillion and many prominent economists see the red ink swelling to $17 trillion in a decade. Our Legislature could face a $5 billion revenue shortfall – roughly 15 percent – when it writes the next budget in 2011.

So, if tax revenues are dwindling, government is cutting back and employers are laying off people, where will the money come from to pay for all these new rights?

It won’t.

There is no free lunch. Rather than saddle employers and taxpayers with a costly and ambiguous wish list, voters should reject Proposition 4 and urge their elected officials to come up with positive, workable alternatives.

For example, why not provide incentives for local employers to invest and create new jobs? After all, the best way for people to get affordable health care and housing is through jobs.

Think about it.

Private-sector and public-sector employers provide health care. When people have jobs, they have more money to spend on food and housing. As people earn more, their consumer spending will generate local and state tax revenues that fund police, firefighters, teachers and other vital community services.

If the backers of Proposition 4 really want affordable renewable energy, they should urge legislators to amend I-937 to include hydropower and limit the area from which utilities can buy solar and wind power. I-937 was the voter-approved initiative that requires major utilities to get 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

But those who wrote I-937 (the same ones who now say we have a “right” to affordable renewable energy) intentionally left clean, affordable hydropower out of the mix and said wind and solar can only come from sources west of the Rockies and south of Canada.

What is so amazing about grandiose schemes like Proposition 4 is the sponsors seem to be oblivious to the world around them. They haven’t even bothered to tally the cost of their wish list.

But the rest of us have to. We – and our children and grandchildren – are already on the hook for our mammoth national debt. Add to that a trillion dollars for health-care reform and trillions more to reduce greenhouse gases. That’s just a start.

It’s time for a wake-up call. Government needs to protect public safety and provide essential services. It is not the role of government to be our surrogate parents or our nannies.

So while Proposition 4 may apply only to Spokane, it could spread like the flu if voters pass it in November, because what happens in Spokane won’t stay in Spokane.

Don Brunell is president of the Association of Washington Businesses.

More in Opinion

Shakespeare and sex jokes, Act II

How exactly did you think he became popular with the masses back in the time of the Plague?

Thank you for, Mount Peak Historical Fire Lookout Association supporters

Keep a lookout for future information during this fundraising phase.

An all-American Rockwell scene

I’m not a farmer — I suspect you already know that — but I live on three acres and, given the price of hay trucked from Yakima, there are farmers in the Krain area willing to cut and bale my field.

Freedom of religions doesn’t mean imposing your beliefs on the public

To then allow any person or group to inflict its particular religious beliefs upon others would clearly deny our right to freely worship and follow our own beliefs

Real life, like Risk, requires great self-discipline

My grandkids were fascinated and played with intensity. Two of them formed an alliance against me for a time to keep me from conquering the world. I, of course, took advantage of all the “teachable moments.”

Businesses should serve the public equally

Many a war has started over “deeply held beliefs’ and religious convictions.

Editor failed to be a fair moderator

Instead of framing the issues and allowing the readers to “form their own opinions on the matters at hand,” the editor chose to apply superfluous labels.

“Deeply held beliefs” no excuse for discrimination

Is it not time that we recognize that “deeply held beliefs,” sometimes are simply wrong?

Perception becomes reality, both nationally and individually

China’s problems can teach us all a lesson about the need for humility.

Most Read