Income taxes and gay marriage: Two issues you may see on the ballot

Lisa Brown and Larry Stickney are grounded in very different philosophies and see the world in very different ways.

She’s a liberal Spokane Democrat and majority leader of the state Senate. He’s a rock-ribbed Arlington conservative and president of Washington Values Alliance.

They’re both concerned the state is on a wrong path and want voters to turn it around this year. Should their ideas collide on this November’s ballot, the outcome would reveal the values of Washington voters in 2009.

Brown stirred the state’s political world this week, suggesting the creation of an income tax for those earning $500,000 a year or more.

It would get extra dollars dropped into the state’s depleted bank account, though not nearly enough to solve the state’s pending $9 billion budget deficit. As important for Brown, it will kick-start the state into overhauling its tax policy — one greatly dependent on the sales tax.

In Brown’s view, the sales tax is regressive, eating deeper into the pockets of the poor than the rich, and too volatile to rely on for operating a state of six million people.

When economy slowdowns occur, people stop spending, the state is starved for cash and the citizens must endure the pain.

That’s happening now, and Brown doesn’t like it.

Slashing funds for schools and health care and human service programs because of the deficit is scarring her political soul. These are core values she wants preserved by literally any means necessary, and taxing the rich is one such means.

Maybe the climate is right. Those who’ve lost their jobs and benefits may be feeling the time is now for such a move. Maybe enough are enraged by bonuses paid executives of bailed-out corporations to join Brown’s cause.

Across the span, Stickney is preparing to fight fiercely to preserve another value, marriage in a biblical sense.

He’s targeted legislation known as “Everything but Marriage” that would make married couples and same-sex couples legally indistinguishable in the eyes of the state.

“It is the intent of the Legislature that for all purposes under state law, state registered domestic partners shall be treated the same as married spouses,” reads the bill’s first line.

Washington law defines marriage as only between a man and a woman and the state Supreme Court has upheld it. But Stickney feels sure this bill, if it becomes law, would be used to again try to legalize same-sex marriage by judicial fiat.

That’s why he’s planning to ask voters to repeal it before a judge gets hold of it.

Conversations on campaign strategy are under way, he said. California’s passage of a proposition banning same-sex marriage provides lessons as much as the Iowa Supreme Court ruling favoring gay marriage provides incentive.

“I think what you will see here is a massive resistance to this thing,” he said.

He intends to not repeat the mistakes of 2006 when groups like the Faith and Freedom Network and Christian Coalition let Tim Eyman hijack their attempt to repeal a law adding sexual orientation to the state’s anti-discrimination law. Referendum 65 never qualified as Eyman came up 7,000 signatures short.

Since then, the state has made domestic partnerships legal and provided them with many rights enjoyed by married spouses — all without legal or electoral challenge.

Stickney said those who’ve tolerated the slow creep view this latest bill as too much of a broadside attack on marriage. They’ll be lining up to help put it on the ballot.

Should their ideas reach the ballot, Brown and Stickney will each begin with a trusted constituency: a government-based network of union members and social liberals for her and a church-based network of social and religious conservatives for him.

They’ll need to convince independents, whose political perspectives are more purple than blue or red, of the worthiness of their respective causes.

It’ll be a chance to find out whether the people of Washington see things either of their ways.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at Contact him at 360-352-8623 or

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