Posted by: sweeneyblog | October 17, 2012

What the heck is “Senate Joint Resolution No.8221”?

Looking for my explanations about the other issues on your ballot? Check out my full recommendations here.

On your ballot, which you will be receiving soon, there are a couple of unusual measures. Tucked between marriage equality and legalization of marijuana, but before you get to governor, or Jason Overstreet, there are some “Senate Joint Resolutions” and “Advisory Vote of the People” measures that have received almost zero news coverage and can be rather confusing. Most of these measures are things the legislature passed . . . but wanted to get a second opinion on. Mainly, yours. Here is my brief explanation of each issue and my recommendation.

Riley Endorses . . .

Amendment to the State Constitution, Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution No. 8221: This measure would implement the recommendations of the State Debt Commission. The Commission was an actually bipartisan effort to examine our state debt limits and determine the best way to give our state the financial flexibility it needs to restart our economy. Our state constitution puts very strict limits on what sort of debt our government can incur. Unlike the federal government, we cannot run a deficit, but we can have a so-called “working debt.” This measure would reduce the amount of “working debt” allowed from 9% of our general fund down to 8%, but would also update the way we calculate that debt. You can read the commission’s findings here. This makes sense to me and was passed with a solid bipartisan majority out of both the Senate and the House, so I’m going to say, vote APPROVED.

Amendment to the State Constitution, Senate Joint Resolution No. 8223: This one is a little easier. It would give Washington State University and the University of Washington the ability to take their state dollars and invest them in the stock market in hopes of making a profit that they would then turn around and use on education. Right now, most universities can do that with donor dollars, especially large endowed scholarships,  but are forbidden to do it with state dollars. This is a bad idea. Could WSU and UW make a bit of money and fund education? Sure. But not terribly likely, and certainly not with the public’s money. If we want to fund education, let’s do that. Let’s not send our universities to the Wall Street casino in hopes they do our job for us. Vote REJECTED.

Advisory Vote No. 1, Engrossed Senate Bill 6635: This bill is aimed at fixing some of the major complaints about the Business and Occupation Tax. It extends the tax deduction to several agriculture businesses, it closes some of the tax loopholes banks have been exploiting, and exempts some distilleries from licensing fees. It isn’t a complete fix, the B & O Tax still hits some small businesses harder than it should, but this cleans up several major complaints. Vote MAINTAINED.

Advisory Vote No. 2, Substitute House Bill 2590: This bill extends the tax on petroleum possession (shipping and refining) to create a pollution insurance fund so that if a disaster does happen, we will have the money to deal with the situation. Previously, this tax was set to expire and the money in that fund would have been turned over to the general fund. This measure keeps the insurance fund separate and the tax in place. Let’s be prudent and vote  MAINTAINED.

Port of Bellingham, Prop. 1: Number of Port Commissioners. Remember when Port Commissioner Scott Walker decided to go on a rampage and sack our highly successful Port Executive Charlie Sheldon a few short months after he started the job? Remember how Scott Walker drummed up a few disgruntled staff members to hide behind while he illegally held meetings on how to remove Sheldon?  Remember how he lied to the public, repeatedly, and then tried to cover his own behind? Are you fed up yet? Let’s get some fresh faces, and more of them. Having only three public officials controlling our port is far too few considering the breadth and scope of their influence. Vote YES.

That’s it for those obscure headscratchers. This Saturday, I will post my official voting recommendations, but for now, this is a good warm up for some of the under-reported issues on your ballot.



  1. Good recommendations. I suspected I would disagree with one or two, but your thoughts are good on all of these.

    • There is definitely some room to disagree. I especially went back and forth on No. 8221, but I think this post will give people a nice starting point so they can at least understand what the heck these votes are about.

    • On No. 8221, the one thing I don’t like is that property tax’s ARE going to be INCLUDED for state revenue under this resolution. The amount of property tax’s brought in will allow for more spending without any more actual money coming in. To me it’s moving sand around in the box just so the bottom lines look better and allow for more spending. The debt will actually go up is what I see happening.
      I might be missing something can anyone explain?

  2. I’m still not sure on 8221, but I am VERY grateful for your help on 2590, and will probably pass on most of your recommendations. That petroleum bill was a puzzler! THANK YOU!
    /Fl!p Breskin

    • Glad I could help. Like I said, I was wishy-washing on 8221.

  3. So why aren’t ‘petroleum producers/shippers/refiners required to carry their own insurance against catastrophic accidents?
    Which small businesses are hit ‘harder than they should’ be by the B&O tax?The exemption/credit from paying any tax at all is pretty generous for most small businesses.
    I’d like to see the words ‘for education’ replaced with ‘student support’ directly, as in resources for learning, and not executive perks and monster salaries for the administrative fat at the top of our higher educational system. If public education dollars are meant to play the stock market, then there should be a one-for-one penalty for every penny lost in that gamble taken directly from those beefy compensation packages at the top.

    • As for the small businesses part, one of the major complaints about the B&O is that it is applied to Gross receipts as opposed to profit, so it taxes you if you are losing money every day, while most business taxes only hit you if you are making money.

      • True and i agree it’s onerous.
        But there are dozens of expenses that come ahead of profit while doing business and dozens more ways accounting can wipe away all profits entirely while there is still a ton of money being made.
        The B&O tax is a small cut for the privilege of doing business in our state. That said, the municipal B&O levee is way outta line since all citizens of the state should be treated equally no matter where they do business.

  4. […] the complicated ballot issues. I wrote about all of these in my post here. Senate Joint Resolution 8221: Vote Approved Senate Joint Resolution 8223: Vote Rejected Advisory […]

  5. Thank you I was looking everywhere for a description of what 2590 actually did. the language at the state was incomplete and unavailiable

  6. I just got my ballot in the mail yesterday and your article really got things started for me and gave me some helpful information. Thanks for the recommendations.

  7. Thanks a lot for doing this. Its unfortunate that there’s such a gap between legal dialect and the level our public schools prepare the general populous for. Thanks for clearing things up a bit.

    • I’m glad I could help. I would argue that some of these measures are intentionally obtuse.

  8. I’m voting no on 8221 for the simple reason that while it is billed as reducing the amount of debt we can incur, it actually increases it. The redefinition of “general state revenues” adds the $1.8B (2011) property tax into the base amount that the limit is calculated on. That amount was 11.6% of state revenue, so it increases the base amount by approximately 10%.

    • I should have read further down. I agree with Jim, I just ask this very question. Thanks for the answer!

  9. I agree with Jim (Oct 31) and am voting No on 8221 for the same reason. It’s just a sneaky way of increasing our debt ceiling while trying to make it look like they are lowering it.

  10. Thanks for your helpful thoughts.

  11. […] District, I published one of the most used guides to the complex ballot initiatives this year (“What the heck is Joint Resolution No. 8223?”, and various other media organizations started to take notice of the work I am doing up here. I […]

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