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‘Son of 695’ the answer to jump-the-gun tax hikes

"I didn’t vote for Initiative 695, but if sponsor Tim Eyman’s “Son of I-695” makes the ballot next year, as I expect it will, I’ll vote for it.I, too, have had it with government officials whose idea of dealing with the passage of I-695 is to impose or threaten draconian cuts in service and higher property taxes or rush to raise taxes before the initiative takes effect Jan. 1, 2000, after which tax and fee increases require a vote of the people.Eyman’s new initiative would roll those jumping-the-gun increases back to their July 1, 1999 level.Not that what these officials are doing was unexpected. I warned you when I explained why I opposed I-695, primary sell on which was that it abolished the state’s motor vehicle excise tax and set a $30 fee for vehicle license tabs.Highways, ferries and other transportation costs have been financed chiefly out of the gasoline tax, which can only be used for that purpose. The vehicle excise tax, on the other hand, has no such constitutional restriction so can be used for anything and has been--transportation, law enforcement, health, etc.Last year, knowing the public opposed any increase in the gas tax, the Legislature reallocated more of the motor vehicle excise tax out of the general fund into transportation use, much of it to the ferry system so it wasn’t so reliant on the gas tax. They sent their plan to the ballot as Referendum 49, which passed with a 57 percent majority.I would rather pay a high license tab for the roads, ferries and bridges, I wrote in September, than see governments turn to increases on sales or property taxes to make up for loss of motor vehicle excise tax, which I feared they would do.Readers clobbered me for even suggesting that a 2 percent loss of state revenue would or could generate tax increases at a time when we have over $1 billion in reserves and have added 10,000 new state jobs in the last three years. Isn’t government getting the message, they demanded? We want them to cut 2 percent.Well, a lot of governments at the city and county levels apparently did not get the message. Some rushed to raise taxes and fees to shore up year 2000 budgets due in December. My own County Commissioners want to raise the property tax from $1.75 per $1,000 valuation to $1.80, which would be the maximum they could collect under the 6 percent (over the previous budget) lid. Why us? Why always stick it to the homeowner?That’s one more reason why I intend to vote for “Son of I-695.” It also caps property valuation increases at 2 percent or inflation--whichever is lower--using Jan. 1, 1999 values as the baseline. It restores the property tax exemption for vehicles and authorizes state and local agencies to adjust prices of goods sold by government (liquor, wine, medicine and textbooks) without a vote of the people.He was tidying up I-695, said Eyman, who was appalled at the way the governments were popping up pre-Jan. 1 tax and fee increases “like popcorn.”Let me offer a suggestion to officials looking for money to replace what I-695 took away: The state is anticipating or may have received by now the first $51 million of the $350 million we get out of the tobacco lawsuit settlement. Use $16 million of that to make up for what the state Department of Ecology air pollution monitoring program lost. That program runs out of money Jan. 1, and the tobacco money is virtually in hand to make up for it.Why not? Where do you think the state gets the money to pay for its Puget Sound pollution program? Taxes on tobacco. Pollution is pollution and certainly air pollution is in the health category.Money to restore law enforcement could be obtained by crackdowns on speeders. Speeding is against the law, and just because everybody does it doesn’t mean we should ignore it.Not filling public jobs vacated by resignations and retirements is another painless way to save money, depending on the job, of course.Ferries, the most devastated of all? Turn the passenger ferry routes over to private enterprise, if ferry bondholders will allow it. Fares won’t be subsidized as the state operations are, but that was the price of I-695."

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