Gregoire, former governors oppose I-933

OLYMPIA – Washington’s current governor and the state’s living former chief executives lined up Monday against a property rights ballot measure, saying the initiative’s strike at land use rules is a magnet for lawsuits and too expensive.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, joined by three of her predecessors at a news conference in Seatac, pledged to work out a legislative solution to disputes over environmental and zoning laws.

The state’s growth management system “is not perfect today, but it is not subject to this kind of major overhaul of absolute vagueness,” Gregoire said.

Supporters of Initiative 933 are not surprised the political establishment is campaigning against them, said Dan Wood, a spokesman for the initiative and the Washington Farm Bureau.

“It’s political, and government officials are opposed to an initiative that will hold government officials and politicians accountable,” Wood said.

I-933 would give private landowners the ability to challenge government regulations dating to 1996 that harm their property value. Officials could either pay for the lost value or waive the requirements.

The Farm Bureau, a leading supporter, says heavy-handed zoning and environmental laws are endangering farming by pushing too much land out of crop production.

The initiative campaign has raised about $650,000, with the largest contributors including Farm Bureau chapters and Americans for Limited Government, a group that bankrolls similar measures around the country.

Opponents include environmental groups, unions and some business interests.

The opposition has raised more than $2 million, with the largest contributions from The Nature Conservancy and individual donors such as Aldus Corp. founder Paul Brainerd and George Russell Jr., chairman emeritus of the Russell Investment Group.

Gregoire previously has voiced her displeasure with the measure. She was joined Monday by former Govs. Gary Locke and Mike Lowry, both fellow Democrats, and Dan Evans, a Republican.

The governors also read statements from former Democratic Govs. Albert Rosellini and Booth Gardner and former GOP Gov. John Spellman during the conference at the Washington Mutual Leadership Center at Cedarbrook.

An analysis by the state Office of Management and Budget says I-933 could cost more than $8 billion in compensation to property owners over the next six years.

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