Education initiative makes the ballot

A measure that would raise the state sales tax by an estimated $1 billion a year for education programs has enough signatures to win a spot on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.

Secretary of State Sam Reed announced Monday that he certified Initiative 884 for the ballot because it had nearly 250,000 valid signatures, well over the 197,734 signatures needed.

State election workers checked 2 percent of the signatures and found about 22 percent in that sample were invalid.

I-884 would raise the state portion of the sales tax 1 percentage point, to 7.5 percent. Combined with local sales taxes, that would raise the overall sales tax for most of King County to 9.8 percent and to 9.8 percent in most of Pierce County.

Revenues from the higher tax would be used to enroll 16,000 low-income children in preschool programs, open 25,000 additional slots at the state’s two- and four-year colleges and give teachers the pay raises they were denied when the Legislature suspended I-732 for the past two years.

“With I-884 on the ballot, citizens will have the chance to do what politicians have failed to do: Make education a top priority for our state,” said Lisa McFarlane, a leader of the League of Education Voters.

The measure was endorsed Monday by The Children’s Alliance, a group of advocates for the poor.

An opposition campaign is gearing up.

“We are opposed to I-884 because of the tax,” said Jaime Daniels, spokeswoman for a group called the League of Freedom Voters. “We don’t think the economy can handle new taxes right now.”

Former state House Speaker Clyde Ballard, who is chairman of the group, will write the opposition statement for the state voter’s guide, Daniels said. Ballard, a Republican from East Wenatchee, retired from the Legislature in 2002 after a 20-year career.

The League of Education Voters persuaded voters in 2000 to approve I-728, a measure that told the Legislature to shift more money into education programs. However, that measure had no new source of revenue, and when the economy went into the tank only four months later, state tax collections dropped and state lawmakers reduced funding.

Joseph Turner: 253-597-8436

(Published 12:36AM, August 3rd, 2004)