Election returns are in. Looking beyond our differences to promote opportunity & priorities for prosperity statewide

Our headline referenced election returns because election results won’t be in for a while. Ballots postmarked election day will continue to roll in for a while. But some results of interest to us appear to be decisive.

Before going to the returns, though, we want to share this commentary by Steven J. Buri. The president of the Discovery Institute and mayor of Newcastle makes a point too easily overlooked. Please, read the whole thing, but here’s the crux.

At a time when many Americans are fed up with politics as usual and the gridlock inherent in a government without a king, we should stop to give thanks to our fellow citizens who have the courage to place their names on a ballot. In doing so, they open themselves up to public examination, often at great personal sacrifice. It isn’t for the faint of heart.

We agree. Now, on to the returns.

It appears Initiative 1366 is passing with 54 percent support. The initiative would cut the sales tax rate a penny unless the Legislature sends voters a proposed constitutional amendment requiring a legislative supermajority for tax increases. When we last checked the Secretary of State’s website, it was passing in every county except for King, Thurston, and Jefferson. In populous King County, 57.5 percent of the voters were rejecting it. The margins were closer in the other two counties where it was losing. Opponents will next mount a court challenge.

As lawmakers wrestle with I-1366 and the state’s ongoing fiscal challenges, the composition of the state House will be closer than it’s been since 2002. In a Republican pickup, Terry Hickel appears to have won the race for the Federal Way-area legislative seat, trimming the Democratic majority in the House to 50-48. The Seattle Times editorial board sees this as “tilting the state House toward moderation.” At a minimum, it means that virtually anything that happens, happens with bipartisan cooperation.

A couple of  local employment policy initiatives were on the ballot. Voters in Spokane overwhelmingly rejected a “workers bill of rights.” Tacoma voters appear to be supporting a gradual increase in the minimum wage to $12, while rejecting a $15 wage.

There were also some Seattle metro area measures with broad significance.

Seattle voters have apparently approved a $933 million transportation package and adopted a first-in-the-nation plan to provide voters with “democracy dollars” paid for with a property tax hike. Here’s how the initiative works.

King County voters seem to have adopted a $392 million levy for children’s education. Here’s what the Seattle Times says:

With his Best Starts for Kids levy proposal, King County Executive Dow Constantine promised to turn “science into action,” but left the details about exactly how $392 million would be spent for later. 

Danny Westneat’s Seattle Times column surveys the electoral landscape. He sees big-ticket initiatives passing handily in the city, the experiment with voucher-funding for elections, rejection of I-1366 and re-election of a socialist to the city council and concludes,

So Seattle may well be on its way to becoming the most progressive city in America. But it’s also an island in its own state.

Possibly. The Seattle metro area currently enjoys a strong economy, one that’s likely to be conducive to increased public spending. In addition, though, there’s a clear income bifurcation in the region that leads to pressures for things like worker protection and a higher minimum wage.

Yet, beyond those differences, we see strong metro area support for policies that resonate across the state. As we developed our Priorities for Prosperity last fall, wherever we had our conversations, we found remarkable agreement, despite significant disparities in economic prosperity.

In his column in the Wenatchee World, Association of Washington Business president Kris Johnson emphasizes the common themes. 

Almost a year ago, a coalition of employer groups launched an initiative called Opportunity Washington to help bring prosperity to all corners of the state. We recognized that while some parts of the state, most notably the Puget Sound region, were enjoying strong economic growth, the recovery was not as strong in other parts of the state.

In fact, in some rural corners of Washington, it felt like the recession never really ended.

Based on feedback from local leaders in communities throughout the state, we concluded that making progress in three specific areas — Achieve (education), Connect (transportation) and Employ (job creation) —would yield the best results.

Election day differences aside, there’s still statewide agreement that those priorities for prosperity will produce the best results. That’s solid ground on which to continue our work to build opportunity throughout the state.