I-1634 sub­verts ‘ci­ti­zen’ ini­tia­tives

The Olympian - - Opinion -

As Ini­tia­tive 1634 pain­fully il­lus­trates, cor­po­rate money has ut­terly cor­rupted Wash­ing­ton’s “ci­ti­zen” ini­tia­tive process. In 1911, “the peo­ple re­serve(d) to them­selves the power to pro­pose bills and laws, and to en­act or re­ject the same at the polls, in­de­pen­dent of the leg­is­la­ture. …” In 2018, it is clear that a tool in­tended to ex­tend the peo­ple’s power has be­come a tool to ex­tend the power of cor­po­ra­tions. I-1634 was spun as pro­tect­ing us from a sales tax on food. In re­al­ity, the ini­tia­tive pro­tects big soda man­u­fac­tur­ers from lo­cal taxes on these non-nu­tri­tious bev­er­ages – which are no more “food” than beer or wine. (Ac­tu­ally, pop is less nu­tri­tious than beer and wine.) This year’s ini­tia­tive con­trasts sharply with 1977’s grass­roots Ini­tia­tive 345. In a des­per­ate move to bal­ance the 1976 state bud­get, the leg­is­la­ture ex­tended the sales tax to food. In pass­ing Ini­tia­tive 345, the peo­ple es­tab­lished that food – vi­tal to all, re­gard­less of in­come – was not an ap­pro­pri­ate source for taxes. I helped gather sig­na­tures for 1977’s I-345. Led by the State Grange, there were zero paid sig­na­ture gath­er­ers. Ini­tia­tive ex­pen­di­tures to­taled $20,865. In con­trast, na­tional cor­po­ra­tions spent $22,114,514 on I-1634. The elec­tion re­sults were vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal: I-345 passed 54 per­cent to 46 per­cent; I-1634 passed 55 per­cent to 44 per­cent. Un­less we can con­trol this cor­po­rate spend­ing, it may be time to put down our old ini­tia­tive horse. Un­for­tu­nately, she is of­ten car­ry­ing more wa­ter for the pow­er­ful than for the peo­ple. Ban­ning paid sig­na­ture gath­er­ers would be a start. – Tom Cling­man, Lake St. Clair

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