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The Initiative Stimulus

Washington state, one of 24 states with both initiatives and referendums available to voters, has seen a flood of political advertising this cycle hoping to influence the nine measures appearing on the ballot next month.

And it’s no surprise, among the issues before voters are the privatization of liquor sales (the state runs stores now), ending a sales tax on bottled water and candy, rejiggering workman’s comp, and instituting for the first time ever an income tax on high earners. So to the barricades bottlers and distributors and insurers and business--all paying a pretty penny for their 30 seconds of spin.

Longtime Puget Sound journalist and wag Knute Berger does the math and concludes that by strategically placing items on the ballot the state could have an annual source of out of state money flowing into the advertising, television, newspaper, and event industries.

He writes: “To fully exploit initiatives as an economic boon, we need to pick our targets carefully. Unions, the Chamber of Commerce, Big Pharma, the Trial Lawyers, the telecommunications industry, Wall Street. Even in these down economic times, America is a target-rich environment for initiative entrepreneurs. This, people, is the new innovation economy, and a revenue stream we should take advantage of. Instead of merely suffering, let's profit from political division and out-of-control spending, by turning it into a business model we can benefit from.”

The next step of course is figuring out how to tax that stream.