Statewide, local measures debated

Sequim's proposed transportation benefit district and the statewide Initiative 1000 to allow physician-assisted suicide were debated Thursday night at Sequim High School in a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

The proposed "transportation benefit district" would increase the sales tax within the Sequim city limit from by two-tenths of 1 percent to 8.6 percent. It would raise an estimated $600,000 based upon the city's 2007 sales tax figures to fund transportation projects.

Sequim City Councilor Susan Lorenzen, not speaking on behalf of the city, said the city has lost $7.7 million in revenue since the state's motor vehicle excise tax was repealed in November 2000.

The city's sales tax revenue is down and property tax revenue is down 17 percent because of the 1 percent limitation on how much property tax revenue can be collected, she said.

The proposed two-tenths of

1 percent increase in the sales tax, which would be paid by visitors as well as residents, would equal an additional two cents on a $10 purchase, Lorenzen said.

It would not apply to gasoline, groceries, prescription drugs, insurance or mortgage payments or rent, she said.

The increase would make Sequim's sales tax 8.6 percent, which is the same as all of Kitsap County, Lorenzen said.

Former Sequim City Councilor Bob Anundson said this is another incremental tax increase, noting the state sales tax was 6.5 percent until local governments were allowed to increase it.

The city just increased its utility taxes and fees for sewer permits and hook-up, then there's the recent hospital district levy increase, he said.

He doesn't want Sequim to be as expensive as Silverdale, Anundson said.

"I can't recommend voting for it after serving on the Sequim City Council," he said.

Also on the night's agenda was Initiative 1000, which is called "physician-assisted suicide" by opponents and "death with dignity" by supporters.

It reads, "This measure would permit terminally ill, competent, adult Washington residents, who are medically predicted to have six months or less to live, to request and self-administer lethal medication prescribed by a physician."

Port Townsend resident and lymphoma patient Len Mandelbaum said despite advances in end-of-life care, people still suffer tremendous pain and loss of dignity.

The 10-year-old Oregon law on which this initiative is based would require signatures from two witnesses and two doctors and the person would have to have six months or less to live, he said.

Mandelbaum said 7,000 people applied for a lethal prescription under the Oregon law but only 350 actually used it, showing that people just want the security of knowing that option is available.

Janet Flatley, a Port Angeles management consultant, said I-1000 would legalize suicide as if it were a medical treatment and has no protections to prevent its use by those who are depressed or mentally ill.

It also contains no requirement for counseling referral, no family notification and one of the witnesses can be an heir, which isn't even done with a will, she said.

The initiative also contains no requirement for following up after the prescription is written, no penalties for not reporting a lethal prescription nor any penalties for suggesting the option, Flatley said.

Mandelbaum said "suicide" is a loaded term. No one is committing anyone to anything, it's a matter of personal choice, he said.

Flatley said suicide is what is occurring so that's the term that should be used.

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