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Washington state turn to fiscal conservatives illustration by Alexander Hunter/The Washington Times

Washington state takes a surprising turn to the right

Three referendum questions placed on November ballot

 Thursday, April 4, 2024

Fiscal conservatives are winning in — of all places — the state of Washington. Members of the Democratic-dominated state Legislature have passed three initiatives that are part of a six-part strategy developed by conservatives in that state.

Leaders of the conservative group Let’s Go Washington announced late last year that they had collected enough signatures to force six referendum questions on the November 2024 ballot. In the past, some might have argued that conservatives were on life support in the state of Washington.

The state has the nation’s longest streak of Democratic governors. The last Republican elected governor was John Spellman in 1985. The last time a Republican from Washington won a seat in the U.S. Senate was in 1988. And the GOP has lost seats in both chambers of the state Legislature since 2016, as well as members of the U.S. House delegation.

Thankfully, Brian Heywood took charge and invested millions in Let’s Go Washington. The grassroots effort collected 800,000 signatures to get the issues on the ballot. Under state law, the measures will appear on the fall ballot unless the Legislature passes them.

In a sign that the ballot questions are wildly popular, the Democratic-controlled Legislature passed three of the measures last month. The state constitution forbids a graduated income tax in Washington. One of the ballot questions approved by lawmakers would prohibit local governments from enacting their own income tax.
Clearly, a bipartisan mix of voters opposes income taxes at any level.

In 2021, liberals in the state approved legislation prohibiting police officers from pursuing vehicle theft suspects. It was in the aftermath of the “defund the police” and Black Lives Matter movements.

According to research from legislative Republicans, motor vehicle thefts went up 73% in the state from 2019 to 2022. It turns out that voters don’t want people to steal their cars. So lawmakers wisely passed a bill allowing reasonable police pursuits.

The third message passed by lawmakers in both parties called for protecting parental rights. Specifically, it spells out that parents are the primary stakeholders for their children. They should have access to information about their children’s schools, mental and physical health, and disciplinary records. The election of Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin made it clear that even voters in blue states care about parental rights.
These were three big wins for conservatives, even in a state ruled by liberals. Each of them will be enacted without an opportunity for the liberal governor to veto them. Three other issues will now appear on the November ballot.

One would stop the hidden tax on Washington state residents. The measure would prevent state agencies from imposing any type of carbon tax credit trading, including “cap and trade” or “cap and tax” programs. It connects the carbon tax to higher gasoline prices. Voters upset about high fuel, food and housing costs will likely vote for this measure; they don’t want to pay more for gas.

The second measure would repeal the capital gains tax. To get around the state constitution, lawmakers claim that the capital gains tax is really an excise tax imposed on the sale or exchange of certain long-term capital assets by individuals who have annual capital gains of over $250,0000. This punishes innovators and family businesses. Passage of this referendum question would allow people to control their own money and keep the government out of their accounts.

The third referendum question allows people to opt out of the state-run long-term care program that has been a failure from the start. It would let workers choose instead of the government.

Liberals never seem to give up. It is refreshing to see a group of conservatives decide that they, too, will never give up. Like our Founding Fathers, they face remarkable odds. So far, they have already achieved half their goal before a single ballot has been cast.

The leaders of Let’s Go Washington caught my attention. Years ago, critics said we could never pass meaningful reforms in Wisconsin after years of liberal control. We were not intimidated, and our reforms are still working today.

The MacIver Institute calculates the true savings of our Act 10 reforms in Wisconsin at $31 billion. More importantly, schools and state and local governments can now staff based on merit and pay based on performance. That means they can put the best and the brightest in the classroom and on the job. We transferred power from big government special interests to hardworking taxpayers — and the people they elect to run their government. Our conservative reforms work.

The recent success in the state of Washington should give hope to conservatives nationwide. Never give up, never surrender.