Initiative 960’s handcuffs necessary

Gov. Christine Gregoire called Initiative 960 “extra handcuffs” on state tax hikes that aren’t needed.

Its author, initiative maestro Tim Eyman, says it is “just a whole lot of public disclosure” that we haven’t had when politicians want to raise taxes. “They are the most dangerous when they don’t think we’re looking.”

I-960 is the only initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot, although there are a couple of other controversial measures there on school levies and insurance.

What I-960 does is require the Legislature to come up with a two-thirds vote in each house to raise taxes or let the people decide via a majority vote, and be given the details needed to help voters make up their minds.

Oh, you thought we already approved a two-thirds vote requirement?

Well, yes, we did, in I-601 in 1993, but the ever-greedy Legislature devised ways to get around that. I-601 required two-thirds majorities to increase general fund taxes and the Legislature suspended that twice since then.

Under I-960, if the Legislature goes ahead and increases taxes without a referendum to the voters, an advisory vote would have to be taken on whether we agree or disagree.

It had no binding power, just a way to force the lawmakers to take the public pulse anyway. Intent of the advisory vote is to make them think twice about tax increases.

Opponents call it

“intimidation.” I suspect

they mean “inTimida-tion.”

Fee increases would only require a simple majority vote but they would have to be voted on by the Legislature, not just imposed by agencies.

Before all this takes place, however, Eyman’s public disclosure kicks off with the Office of Financial Management estimating the 10-year cost of any bill that raises taxes or fees.

An e-mail system for the press and public would make this information available, along with hearing schedules and voting records of the legislators acting on the proposal.

Why all this is necessary, Eyman told a Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce audience, was that our troops in Olympia are like kids in Toys R Us.

“They want it all,” he said. “State and lo-cal governments impose and collect over $50 billion per year from us. Do we ever get a thank you? There needs to be a little bit of adult supervision of the children in Olympia.”

“It’s not too much to ask to keep us informed,” he said. “And let’s not forget the emergency clause. We have a constitutional right to do a referendum on laws they pass, but the emergency clause takes that away. Out of 1,437 laws passed since Gregoire’s been governor, 205 had emergency clauses, meaning there was a threat to public health and safety without them.

“When voters said no to a sports stadium,” Eyman said, “the Legislature jacked up taxes for it anyway and stuck an emergency clause on. The Supreme Court said who are we, the courts, to second guess the Legislature so I guess the children are running the daycare.”

And no way around it, Eyman said, the Eyman factor has to be taken into consideration, i.e., people who don’t like him or his previous initiatives. If you’re one of those, he said, bear in mind I-960 is positive public policy, not negative, and try visualizing its sponsor instead as Martin Luther King or Mother Teresa, rather than Tim Eyman.

Personally, I kind of like Gov. Gregoire’s description of it as “extra handcuffs” on tax hikes, except that, considering how quickly she broke her campaign promises on no new taxes, she’s one of the main reasons they’re needed.

Adele Ferguson can be reached at PO Box 69, Hansville, WA 98340.

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