The following column was submitted to My Edmonds News from the Yes on 1053 campaign
By Tim Eyman
Three times the voters have approved initiatives requiring either a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or a majority vote of the people to raise taxes. Three times. Yet Olympia took it away this year, despite overwhelming citizen opposition. According to KING 5’s statewide poll, 68 percent of voters thought it was the wrong thing to do. When asked whether tax increases should require a two-thirds vote or a majority vote, a whopping 74 percent said two-thirds.
Voters want tax increases to be an absolute last resort.
For the two years following voters approval in 2007, Initiative 960 worked exactly as voters intended. With I-960, tax increases were a last resort and Olympia balanced its budgets without raising taxes. This year without I-960, they increased taxes $6.7 billion (that’s how much it’ll cost us over the first 10 years according to the state’s budget office). I-1053 brings back I-960’s protections.
We need certainty in tough economic times. The worst thing state government could do right now is hamper the conditions for economic growth. Washington lost 16,000 jobs this year – only eight states lost more. We need an economic climate where families feel confident, employers expand and job growth is positive. I-1053 provides a stable future, giving families and employers the certainty they need to prosper.
Olympia faces another big deficit because unsustainable spending has once again outstripped revenue. With I-1053, Olympia will finally be forced to reform government, prioritize spending and re-evaluate existing programs. Without I-1053, they’ll resort to job-killing, recession-extending, family-budget-busting tax increases (just like they did this year).
Opponents of I-1053 make it sound like we’re proposing something brand new. The fact is that since 1993, Washington’s had the two-thirds vote requirement for the Legislature to raise taxes. In those 17 years, during legislative sessions when it’s been in effect, tax hikes were a last resort resulting in more reform and fewer taxes. When Olympia suspends it (like this year), tax increases become a first resort resulting in less reform and much higher taxes ($6.7 billion in higher taxes this year).
Opponents of I-1053 say you shouldn’t vote for it because I’m one of the initiative’s 13 co-sponsors. It’s obviously hard for me to be objective, but is that really a good reason? Voters have approved this policy three times – over 333,000 citizens voluntarily signed I-1053’s petitions – public support is overwhelming – and unless it passes, Olympia will radically raise taxes next year.
Opponents say you shouldn’t vote for I-1053 because it’s unconstitutional. They’ve been saying that since 1993 but the courts consistently disagree. There have been three legal challenges to the two-thirds policy and three times the court has dismissed them (the last time was a unanimous vote of the state supreme court). As Article I, section 2 of our state Constitution reads: “The legislative authority of the state of Washington shall be vested in the legislature…but the people reserve to themselves the power to propose bills, laws, and to enact or reject the same at the polls, independent of the legislature.” That’s all we’re doing with I-1053.
Before this year’s legislative session began, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said, “We have to get 960 overturned as soon as possible.” Speaker of the House Frank Chopp said, “We must suspend 960 to carry out the will of the people.” Gov. Gregoire said citizens should “stop meddling” and “leave it to us.” This shows that increasing taxes was their first resort, not the last resort.
In a September 2008 debate, candidate Gregoire said, “I won’t raise taxes in tough economic times … we’re not going to be raising taxes.” Let’s resurrect that promise.
The people are being forced to pass this again and again because Olympia keeps refusing to abide by this voter-approved law.
Many newspapers support I-1053:
Spokesman-Review: It shouldn’t be impossible to raise taxes, but it should be difficult, and that’s why we encourage voters to approve I-1053’s supermajority requirement – again.
Wenatchee World: While it might ordinarily be preferable to let a majority of our elected representatives decide taxation issues, these times are unique and the course of decisions crucial. It is not anti-democratic to set a higher threshold for doing things we wish to be rare and difficult.
Yakima Herald-Republic: Legislative Democrats really deserve this initiative. They have repeatedly ignored calls for reforming a broken fiscal system and instead have imposed a patchwork of budget cutbacks and tax increases.
It shouldn’t be easy for government to take more of the people’s money. Let’s bring back the protection Olympia took away – vote YES on 1053.
Tim Eyman is one of I-1053’s 13 co-sponsors. For more information, call 425-493-8707 or visit www.VotersWantMoreChoices.com