Initiative 920 lost, and it lost huge. The current numbers show I-920 barely passing in only three Eastern Washington counties, and failing statewide by 61% to 39%, an embarrassing 22-point margin that will only grow once the bulk of King County’s ballots are added to the mix.
This was more than a repudiation — it was a political ass-whooping… an electoral “fuck you” to estate tax repeal, its rhetoric, and the selfish multi-millionaires who backed it.
In arrogantly pushing to repeal Washington’s estate tax, proponents like Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen have set their cause back a decade or more. If the state GOP wants to continue to champion the cause, more power to them. Or rather, less power, for repudiating the overwhelming will of the voters is a sure fire path towards cementing the kind of stunning legislative losses they achieved last night. And if Frank or Martin or one of their wealthy buddies wants to sink more millions into yet another hopeless initiative, well… a fool and his money are soon parted, and as long as that adage holds true, voters don’t seem to mind if a tiny fraction of the money ends up in state coffers.
Had I-920 passed last night, even just squeaking by, we would have surely seen copycat initiatives popping up on ballots nationwide. Now that seems unlikely. But should estate tax repeal forces seek to cherry-pick a more millionaire friendly state, the No on I-920 campaign has provided a blue print for countering their carefully constructed, Luntzian, “death tax” rhetoric.
With the Democrats now in control, estate tax repeal is also as good as dead at the federal level, and I-920’s crushing defeat will give House and Senate leaders no incentive to moderate their position. In fact, by arrogantly overreaching, I-920’s backers may have actually damaged efforts to reach a compromise that would have significantly raised exemption levels on both the state and federal tax. Certainly, Blethen should expect no support from Sen. Maria Cantwell, who lost the Times’ endorsement due to her refusal to vote for repeal, yet still won reelection by an 18-point landslide.
If there was ever an example of editorial impotence, this is it.