Spending freeze, gay rights on Washington ballot

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PORT ANGELES, WA — Voters have already received their mail ballots across the Evergreen State and the two hottest issues in the Nov. 3 election are I-1033, a rightwing measure to impose deep spending cuts, and another ballot question, R-71 to ratify the state legislature’s Domestic Partnership law.

Members of unions and community organizations are standing at street corners across the state holding up placards that read, “Save Our Schools…Vote No on Eyman 1033.” R-71 backers are standing on the same corners with placards that read, “Vote Yes on R-71.” Activist Susan Shaffer was on a street corner  in Sequim with a “Vote No in Eyman-1033” in one hand and “Vote Yes on R-71” in the other. Full and half page newspaper ads have sprouted warning that I-1033, like California’s Prop-13, will inflict ruin on public education, health, the environment, roads and bridges.

Washington Families Standing together blasted the rightwing homophobes for putting R-71 on the ballot, branding it “Washington State’s version of Prop-8” that outlawed same-sex marriages in California. The group urged a “yes” vote on R-71 to uphold the state’s Domestic Partnership Law.

The Port Angeles City Council voted unanimously Oct. 20 to oppose I-1033 after four witnesses warned that it will inflict deep cuts to schools, public safety, and the Olympic Medical Center (OMC), the only hospital on the north Olympic Peninsula.

Bill Kildall, coordinator of Reform Health Care NOW told the council, I-1033 “will cripple government’s ability to help thousands who have lost their jobs, homes, and health care due to the current recession. It will lock in cuts, force layoffs and even school closures.”  OMC, a public non-profit hospital, has $7 million in uncompensated care, according to CEO Eric Lewis, who attributed the debt to emergency room treatment of the 9,000 people on the north Olympic Peninsula who lack health insurance.

Kildall told a news conference at the public library here Oct. 19, “Tim Eyman’s I-1033 is soft terrorism. He wants to take the government down, weaken government to the point that only the privileged can enjoy public services. They are not interested in promoting good government or the welfare of the people.” Eyman is a notorious anti-government fanatic who repeatedly has placed Prop-13 style anti-tax measures on the Washington State ballot.

Kildall compared Eyman’s anti-government initiative to the “insurance lobby” in the nation’s capital, “parasites making profits” from their sabotage of health care reform.

I-1033 would freeze state and local spending at this year’s level plus the rate of inflation and population growth. Any surplus funds above the current spending must be returned in reduced property taxes in the following year. State and local governments in Washington State are already grappling with huge deficits and have been forced to impose sweeping cuts and layoffs to all public services including schools, public health, and public works maintenance and construction.

John Borah, a retired city planner told the news conference, “Revenge toward the government is the motive of Eyman’s I-1033. But the vengeance assaults not the government but 632,000 children on Medicaid, women, the sick, the poor…”

He pointed out that many programs including Medicaid and the SCHIP children’s health program require state matching funds to qualify for federal funding. “It means our state will lose ten federal dollars for every ten dollar reduction in state funding,” he said.

Carol Mahr, representing the League of Women Voters said I-1033 “will make the recession worse and undermine the ability of government to respond to the economic crisis at all levels.” Washington State’s jobless rate surged last month to 9.2 percent and is expected to exceed 10 percent in months to come.

John Marrs, Chairman of the Clallam County Democratic Central Committee said, “Clearly, I-1033 threatens good governance.” He cited the so-called TABOR law in Colorado, approved in a voter referendum but suspended two years later after the law inflicted enormous damage to Colorado’s schools, public infrastructure, public health and safety and the environment.

John Hennessey, a leader of Veterans for Peace, said vets “are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan and many are not covered by veterans health benefits. They are subject to mortgage foreclosures and job loss in this deep recession. I-1033 should go down to defeat.”

Dr. Ben Chambers, a retired family physician, chairman of the Clallam County Democratic Club, said I-1033 will slash programs that enable senior citizens to remain in their homes. “Seniors will be forced into nursing homes at great expense,” he said.

Green Party leader Nelson Cone said the rightwing teabaggers have been “vocal” adding, “Our hope is that those who are more quiet will step forward and vote this down.”

(Photo by Tom Arthur, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

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