Senate passes bill to provide information on initiative costs

With a strong bipartisan 41-8  vote, the Senate has passed SB 5715, a measure that would require ballot initiatives to include fiscal impact information. The Associated Press reports

It seeks to include the potential fiscal impact of the measure on the actual ballot if it costs or reduces spending by more than $25 million over two years. The wording on the ballot would tell voters that “other state spending may need to be reduced or taxes increased to implement the proposal.”

This year, voter-approved Initiative 1351, a multi-billion dollar unfunded class size reduction mandate, has complicated legislative budget deliberations. Lawmakers suspect the narrowly-approved measure slipped by because voters were unaware of the cost consequences.

We’ve previously written about efforts to increase information available to voters on ballot issues here and here.

TNT asks the right question about pricey I-1351 class size initiative

The News Tribune editorial board asks, “Would voters still like I-1351 with tax included?” They suggest the outcome might be different, pointing out…

The more Washingtonians looked at Initiative 1351 last fall, the less they liked it.

Another look may be in the offing. The initiative’s price tag has played a role in recent legislative efforts to improve disclosure of the fiscal effects of ballot measures. The News Tribune sees merit in a referendum:

All the reasons that made this initiative a stinker last fall are reasons to give the voters another shot at it. Lawmakers can put the exact same measure on the ballot, but this time with a funding provision – an income tax, say, or an increment to the sales tax….I-1351’s supporters can hardly object to a referendum that includes revenues – unless, that is, they were trying to fool the voters last year into thinking they were getting a freebie.

The measure has complicated an already difficult education funding session, driven by the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. And if you’re still unclear that the decision’s about, it’s hard to be Sen. Joe Fain’s even-handed 57 second explanation.