Washington Bonds for Energy Efficiency Projects, Referendum 52 (2010)
The Washington Schools Energy Efficiency Projects Bill, also known as Referendum 52, was on the November 2, 2010 ballot in Washington as a legislatively-referred state statute, where it was defeated. The measure would have called for a $500 million bond that lawmakers estimated would create 40,000 new jobs in public school and government building renovations; similar to a 2009 proposal that stalled in the legislature. In contrast to a 2009 proposed bill, which lawmakers worried would harm the state's bond rating because of the large amount ($2 billion), the proposed bill was smaller in size and would not add liability to the general fund, according to legislators. According to the proposed legislation, bond proceeds would have been spent on replacing roofs, installing insulation, cleaning mold-infested buildings and making energy-saving improvements. These improvements would have taken place on school campuses and state offices.
|Washington Referendum 52 (2010)|
Election results via: Washington Secretary of State
Text of measure
The ballot title read:
Effects if measure passes
The purpose of R-52 was to ask voters to issue bonds that would finance energy efficiency projects for the state's K-12 and higher education systems. A total of $505 million in bonds would be issued by the state if the voters approved R-52.
Money for the projects would have been raised by selling bonds. The revenue from the bond sales would have been deposited into the state's treasury.
School districts that pursued funds under R-52, would have been required to apply with the state to obtain funding. All applications would have been approved on a competitive basis using criteria set under R-52. At least five percent of the grants would have been awarded to school districts with less than 1,000 students if R-52 was approved.
However, the measure was defeated by voters.
Conflicts with I-1107
R-52 conflicted with I-1107 because the initiative reduced the state's ability to pay off general obligation bonds through sales tax revenues. I-1107 called for the end of sales taxes on candy, bottled water, processed food, and carbonated beverages. R-52 called for a temporary expansion of the state's sales tax on bottled water until 2013. The approval of I-1107 ended the sales taxes on candy, processed food, and carbonated beverages. If both R-52 and I-1107 had been approved, the state may have found difficulties in paying for R-52 when four sources of sales tax revenue were abolished by I-1107.
The measure was proposed by Rep. Hans Dunshee of Snohomish County. "We’ve got to do something besides just balance the budget. We’ve got to do something about the jobs and the economy," said Rep. Hans Dunshee. In March 2010, shortly after the state's unemployment figures were released, Dunshee argued that the state needed to create jobs because "Over 27 percent of the construction industry is sitting on its hands."
Dunshee argued that the bill would have: created about 38,000 jobs in a six-year period; permanently reduced energy bills in schools; and increased sales tax revenues starting in 2011.
Sponsors included Representatives Hans Dunshee, Brendan Williams, Scott White, Larry Seaquist, Jeannie Darneille, Deborah Eddy, Mary Lou Dickerson, Mike Sells, Christine Rolfes, Maralyn Chase, Tami Green, Sherry Appleton, Pat Sullivan, Geoff Simpson, Sharon Nelson, Zack Hudgins, Jim Jacks, Sam Hunt, Bob Hasegawa, Timm Ormsby, James Moeller, Mary Helen Roberts.
According to reports there wasn't an organized opposition. However, some argued that the proposed measure would impose too much debt on the state and wouldn't create the jobs or provide the energy savings as proposed. Rep. Judy Warnick said, "R52 is not going to come through with the results that the proponents think it's going to. It's like maxing out our credit cards and using it for disposable items, like light bulbs and windows."
According to the secretary of state's website, opponents additionally argued that, "The figure of 30,000 new construction jobs is drastically overestimated. Opponents say the state econmists really estimate that 5,700 new short-term construction jobs are more likely at the cost of $162,000 in tax money for each job."
Media editorial positions
- The Stranger supported the Referred Bill 52. "By passing Referendum 52, voters would allow the state to expand its bonding capacity to issue $505 million in bonds to pay for energy-efficiency improvements in schools. Extending a sales tax on bottled water pays for the bonds; if that tax gets repealed (see I-1107), other money from the state's general fund pays off the bill. Not only would these improvements save energy (which saves the planet and saves the state money), they'd create jobs," said the editorial board.
- Publicola supported the proposed measure. "...since the project has to save money in energy costs, it doesn’t only decrease our state’s energy costs—it also means school districts that qualify are going to be spending less money turning the lights on and more on teachers and textbooks...Thirty thousand jobs, better schools, and energy savings. No-Brainer. PubliCola picks Yes on R-52," said the editorial board.
- The Yakima Herald-Republic opposed Referred Bill 52. "The stated intent is to create energy-efficient schools, but it would create a financial burden on future generations, the very people that the referendum purports to serve," said the editorial board.
- The Seattle Times was opposed to R-52. In an editorial, the board said they opposed the proposed measure because there was no accountability or reassurance that the funded projects were effective and did what they claimed. Additionally, the board said they were concerned about the costs considering that I-1107 (also on the ballot) may eliminate needed revenue. "If the tax on bottled water goes away, the Legislature will have to find some other money to pay off the bonds," they said.
- The Tacoma News Tribune was opposed to R-52. "If good intentions were money in the bank, R-52 might be worth passing. But there are no guarantees that this measure will deliver the promised job creation, energy savings or, most crucially, protection of the state’s finances...R-52 offers too much risk for not enough potential reward. The News Tribune editorial board recommends a no vote," said the editorial board.
- The Kitsap Sun opposed the measure. "It would add nearly $1 billion to the state’s long-term debt load, and would turn the temporary tax on bottled water into a permanent one. Also, this so-called “healthy schools” measure only requires that 5 percent of the money go to K-12 schools, and no specific energy efficiency standards are required. R-52 is too costly and of arguable effectiveness. Vote 'no,'," said the board.
- The Wenatchee World was opposed. "This is wrong time to go further in debt, and we should know by now that permanent jobs are not so easily created. Everyone senses that. The point should be emphasized with a no vote on Referendum 52," said the board.
Reports and analysis
In 2010 the Washington Office of Financial Management released fiscal impact statements for initiatives scheduled to appear on the 2010 ballot, including Referendum 52. Below is an excerpt:
Referendum 52 authorizes the issuance of $505 million in state general obligation bonds to fund capital improvements for energy efficiency in buildings owned by public school districts and public higher education institutions. Twenty-nine-year debt service costs are estimated to total $937 million, for an average annual state cost of $32.3 million. Other state costs are estimated to be $2.2 million annually through fiscal year 2015. The sales tax on bottled water is estimated to increase State General Fund revenues an annual average of $39.8 million and increase local government revenues an annual average of $14.9 million.
- See also: Polls, 2010 ballot measures
- An August 26-August 29, 2010 poll of 650 likely voters by Survey USA showed that 34% of voters were certain they would support Referendum 52, 42% were certain they would oppose the measure, and 24% were undecided. 
- A September 30-October 3, 2010 poll of 639 likely voters by Survey USA revealed that 28% supported the proposed measure, while 45% were opposed and 27% were undecided. The poll was sponsored by KING-TV Seattle. The margin of error was +/- 4 percentage points.
|Date of Poll||Pollster||In favor||Opposed||Undecided||Number polled|
|August 26 - 29, 2010||Survey USA||34%||42%||24%||650|
|Sept. 30-Oct. 3, 2010||Survey USA||28%||45%||27%||639|
On May 10, 2010 the Association of Washington Business filed a lawsuit with the Thurston County Superior Court. The association asked to change the language scheduled to appear on the November ballot. According to the filing, the organization contended that the legislature omitted information. Specifically, the group pointed to the fact that a temporary sales tax on bottled water would be made permanent if the measure was approved by voters. A hearing was scheduled for May 28.
The current language, written by measure sponsor Rep. Hans Dunshee read:
The legislature has passed Engrossed House Bill No. 2561 (this act), concerning job creation through energy efficiency projects in school buildings. This bill would promote job creation by authorizing bonds to construct energy efficiency savings improvements to schools, including higher education buildings.
The Association of Washington Business proposed the court use the following language:
The legislature has passed Engrossed House Bill No. 2561 concerning funding energy efficiency projects in schools and raising taxes therefore. This bill would authorize bonds to finance energy efficiency improvements in schools and higher education buildings, and make the sales tax on bottled water permanent.
Path to the ballot
In order to place the measure on the statewide ballot, the measure required at least a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate. On March 16, 2010 the House re-approved the bill after a vote of 54-39; moving it forward to the Senate for the special session. The bill had previously died in the Senate during the regular session.
- Washington bond measure language called into question
- Washington lawmaker proposes public works bond measure
- Engrossed House Bill 2561 - summary
- Engrossed House Bill 2561 - full text
- 2010 Election Voters Guide
- The News Tribune,"Ballot will shape state budget," August 30, 2010
- Washington Secretary of State's: From Our Corner,"Here’s your quick guide to WA ballot measures," August 10, 2010
- The Daily Herald,"5 Washington state ballot measures could end up in court," July 18, 2010
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 The Olympian,"Lawmaker seeks public works jobs bond measure," December 21, 2009
- ↑ Associated Press,"Gregoire signs new state budget into law," May 4, 2010
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 The Daily Herald,"House revives bill to create jobs and renovate schools," March 17, 2010
- ↑ Washington Secretary of State,"2010 Election Voters' Guide (Engrossed Substitute House Joint Resolution 4220)," retrieved August 24, 2010
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Washington Secretary of State "2010 Voter Guide, Referred Bill 52"
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Washington Secretary of State "Summary of I-1107 (2010)"
- ↑ The News Tribune,"Bills for building, tech jobs advance," March 17, 2010
- ↑ Washington Legislature,"HB 2561 summary," retrieved March 23, 2010
- ↑ Associated Press,"Wash. to decide bonds for school energy projects," October 4, 2010
- ↑ Crosscut,"R-52: The pros and cons on school remodeling plan," October 23, 2010
- ↑ The Stranger,"VOTE, BABY, VOTE!," October 13, 2010
- ↑ Publicola,"PubliCola No-Brainer #29: Yes on R-52," October 6, 2010
- ↑ The Yakima Herald-Republic,"Legislative measures: Two thumbs up, one down," October 14, 2010
- ↑ The Seattle Times,"Referendum 52: Vote no on 'Hans Bonds'," October 1, 2010
- ↑ The News Tribune,"Vote no on pie-in-the-sky plan to lift state's debt limit," October 14, 2010
- ↑ Kitsap Sun,"OUR VIEW | Sorting Out the Ballot Issues," October 21, 2010
- ↑ Wenatchee World,"Referendum 52: Too much debt," October 23, 2010
- ↑ Survey USA, "Results of SurveyUSA Election Poll #17011" August 30, 2010
- ↑ PubliCola,"SurveyUSA Poll Could Spell Bad News for Progressive Coalition," August 31, 2010
- ↑ SurveyUSA,"10 Days Until WA Ballots Mailed, New Support for Initiative 1107, Steady Support for 1053, Faltering Support for Referendum 52," October 4, 2010
- ↑ The Daily Herald,"Suit filed over $505 million bond measure language," May 11, 2010
- ↑ The Spokesman-Review,"AWB challenges ballot title of Energy Rehab bonds," May 11, 2010
- ↑ Associated Press,"Wash. lawmakers OK school upgrades ballot measure," April 13, 2010
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