Washington State: I-933's message: 'Pay up or back off'

Adele Ferguson
for Peninsula Daily News

August 29, 2006

Well, I've made up my mind.

It wasn't a tough decision to make.

I voted for a similar version of it in 1995 when it arrived in Olympia in the form of an initiative to the Legislature.

Signed by 230,000 people, it expanded the constitutional mandate that people have to be paid when government takes property for public use.

The initiative limited by regulation what could be done on portions of land and called for filing of economic impact statements on any proposed regulation affecting private property.

The Legislature passed it, as is, in a Republican House and a Democratic Senate, but opponents were waiting in the bushes and got it on the fall ballot as Referendum 48.

Those impact statements would cost the taxpayers millions, they cried.

Well, not necessarily.

They could avoid the cost of the statement entirely by not putting so many restrictions on private property to satisfy the whims of environmentalists and other anti-growth types.

R-48 was declared the greatest danger to our way of life since World War II because it put the rights of private property owners ahead of the demands of government.

I wrote at the time that R-48 was a dose of "think before you act" medicine for governments that were too quick to make decisions ostensibly for the public good but without regard for the rights of the people.

There was a media blitz against R-48, with wide use of a last minute University of Washington study warning of billions (instead of millions) it would cost if government were forced to pay citizens when it made their property unusable by regulation.

The fiscal part was done by someone at The Evergreen State College, but saying University of Washington made it more impressive.

Voters were sufficiently scared and took a powder.

R-48 went down, 59.39 percent to 40.61 percent, 796,869 votes to 544,888 votes.

I'm telling you this because I expect the same tactics again this year.

The new version, I-933, was put together by the Washington State Farm Bureau.

It requires state and local governments to consider in advance what the cost would be to pay the landowner for any lessening of the value or use of his land when proposing a land use regulation rather than passing the regulation first and then pricing it out.

Government must also consider whether voluntary effort could mitigate the cost.

If it can't, then government must choose between paying the owner or excusing the owner from obeying the regulation.

It's pay up or back off.

I-933 is opposed by the usual suspects — environmentalists who want to stop growth anywhere since they already got theirs.

They throw the word developer around like the feds talk about terrorists.

There also are greedy developers, reckless developers and the worst kind — out-of-state developers.

If it helps you make up your mind, Gov. Chris Gregoire doesn't like I-933.

She is sympathetic, she said, but says the measure "is poorly drafted, far too broad."

She promised to work with the Legislature to find a solution to preserving farmland in Washington.

Oh, sure, her promises are good.

Didn't she promise not to raise taxes if elected?

Any time I get a chance to tighten up the rights of property owners, I do it.


Adele Ferguson's weekly columns on statewide issues appears on the opinion page of the Peninsula Daily News every Tuesday. 
Write her at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, WA  98340.



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