I-1033’s defeat isn’t a mandate to raise taxes again

Jack Fagan, Mike Fagan, and I co-sponsored Initiative 1033 and worked hard for the past year advocating for it because we firmly believe in its policies and thought a lot of citizens supported it, too.

That was proven true — more than 315,000 citizens signed petitions and, at last count, 721,000 voted for it.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough.

I-1033 had three goals:

• put government growth on a sustainable path by bringing back I-601’s growth formula of inflation-plus-population growth

• substantially lower our property tax burden; and,

• deter tax increases by extending I-960’s two-thirds legislative approval for raising taxes policy

Eleven months after filing I-1033, we heard the verdict — a majority of voters decided they weren’t supportive of I-1033’s combination of all three.

We will learn from this experience and come back next year with an initiative that addresses the concerns raised by constructive critics of I-1033.

This is not unusual. Over the past 12 years, we’ve often made several attempts on a broad array of issues — lowering car tab taxes (four attempts), limiting property taxes (four attempts), renewing I-601’s fiscal policies (three attempts), improving transportation (two attempts), empowering the State Auditor to conduct performance audits of government, protecting the initiative process, and others.

Some of these efforts were successful, some weren’t.

This also is not unusual. Winning some and losing some is what happens in politics, in business, in relationships and in life.

But in every initiative effort, the people, the politicians, and the process have benefited from the debate.

An active, engaged citizenry is absolutely essential to encourage elected officials to be more responsive to the people.

Government is the most dangerous when it doesn’t think the public is watching.

Initiatives put a very bright spotlight on government and allow the average taxpayer a greater voice in the process.

Our greatest concern is that the Legislature will say that I-1033’s election outcome was actually the people endorsing the idea of higher taxes. Doing so would be a serious mistake.

Several in the media agree:

• Everett Herald: “Public officials — particularly state lawmakers and the governor — should not read the results as a green light to raise taxes next year. Government revenues remain well below planned spending, the same situation many families face in this economy. Those families must balance their budgets with the income they have, and they rightly expect state to do the same.”

• Walla Walla Union-Bulletin: “We are convinced that while voters want education and other critical programs funded, they don’t want new or higher taxes right now. The unemployment rate is up and even those with jobs — good jobs — are feeling the pinch. So it looks to us as if voters are giving lawmakers another chance to get a handle on spending without raising taxes.”

• Tacoma News Tribune columnist Peter Callaghan: “Should incumbents read the results as an endorsement? Some will, because they always do. It might be wiser, however, for them to see 2009 as an electoral bullet dodged. Just because angry voters didn’t make up a majority doesn’t mean there still aren’t a lot of them out there.”

We still face extraordinarily difficult economic conditions. Through our initiative and legislative efforts, we will continue to fight for taxpayers by deterring the Legislature from making this bad situation worse by raising taxes.

Politicians need to realize that by declining to support I-1033, citizens gave government an extra $9 billion – over and above inflation-and-population growth – to resolve its fiscal challenges.

Gov. Christine Gregoire and the Democrats who control the Legislature should simply say “thank you” and not push their luck by trying to take even more.

Tim Eyman is a resident of Mukilteo.

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