SEATTLE (AP) — Washington voters are deciding the fate of several high-profile initiatives, including measures that would raise the statewide minimum wage and impose the nation’s first direct carbon tax.
Initiative 1433 would raise the hourly wage by roughly $4 over three years, to $13.50.The measure also would require employers to provide paid sick leave — at least one hour for every 40 worked — that could be used to care for family members or as “safe leave” for those who miss work because of domestic violence.
Washington’s current minimum age is $9.47 an hour.
Supporters of I-1433 said giving low-wage workers hundreds in extra monthly pay will boost the state’s economy. Opponents of the measure said raising the wage by nearly half could cost jobs and force businesses to close.
Sponsors of the carbon tax measure, Initiative 732, say residents have a moral responsibility to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
The tax encourages businesses to conserve or switch to clean energy by making fossil fuels more expensive, and it makes the tax system fairer by using the revenues to reduce other taxes, they say.
Businesses say the tax will drive up fuel and energy costs and put Washington companies at a competitive disadvantage.
The carbon tax would start at $15 a ton of carbon emissions in July, go up to $25 the next year and incrementally increase afterward.
Some major environmental and other groups — including those that backed Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposal last year to cap emissions and make carbon polluters pay — opposed the initiative. They said it took the wrong approach.
Voters will also decide on a measure that could reduce gun violence by taking firearms away from people who are found by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others. Initiative 1491 would allow families of people in crisis to ask a judge to issue an extreme-risk protection orders that would temporarily prevent their loved ones from having access to firearms.
Other initiatives on the ballot include measures include:
—Initiative 1464, which would make the most sweeping changes to the state’s campaign finance system in decades. Supporters say the ballot question — which also creates a publicly funded voucher system for political contributions — makes much needed reforms in order to bring more accountability to the system. But opponents say it will use tax dollars to benefit politicians while the state remains under a court order to put more money toward basic education. The measure’s voucher system would give voters three $50 “democracy credits” that they can use in state races every two years.
—Initiative 1501, a battle between a union and think tank over exempting home care workers’ information from public disclosure that is described as a consumer fraud measure.
— Initiative 735, urging the proposal of a federal constitutional amendment that says free speech in the form of political contributions belongs to people, not corporations.
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