Thursday, November 9, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Initiatives defy geography

Voters picked their way through four statewide ballot measures with an independence that defied easy assumptions about political geography.

Initiative 933, the so-called Property Fairness Act, was strongly opposed in Western Washington, which is often a dismissive shorthand for Puget Sound. But the sweeping proposal to roll back land-use laws was rejected by voters from the Cascades to the Pacific Ocean. East of the mountains, voters also loudly said "no" in Spokane, Lincoln, Whitman, Garfield and Asotin counties. Concerns about managing growth while providing predictability and certainty for landowners, including farmers, helped fuel opposition. Key land-use groups, such as Futurewise, did a good job of putting the financial hazards and pitfalls of the measure before voters.

Initiative 920, an attempt to repeal a new estate tax on inherited assets valued at more than $2 million, passed in only three counties: Yakima, Benton and Franklin. Legislators publicly tied the proceeds to education, and voters throughout Washington were apparently unwilling to cut the cord to those new revenues.

Washington voters were all over the map in supporting the renewable-energy proposal, Initiative 937. If the measure, passing with 52 percent, becomes law, utilities will have to derive 15 percent of their energy portfolio from renewables by 2020 or face fines.

This measure found support in counties from the Canadian border to the Columbia River, and the Pacific Ocean to the Idaho border. A broad swath in the middle of the state said "no," but the approval was widespread.

The state's come-together moment was House Joint Resolution 4223, which increased an exemption from the personal-property tax. This was welcome relief for small business, and it was approved by voters in all 39 counties.

Anyone planning political campaigns — for initiatives or public office — has to rethink old shibboleths about the state's values as defined by geography.

Hasty assumptions will lead to disappointment at the polls.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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