Spending, not I-747, to blame for budget woes

As usual, we’re looking for scapegoats rather than solutions — and trying to divert attention from the real reason for our problems.

Discussing the county’s projected $4.7 million budget shortfall for the coming year, Kitsap Assessor Jim Avery last week seemed to suggest the answer was as simple as raising taxes.

“The 1 percent limit on (property taxes) is causing a problem,” he said, “because the annual cost of (county) employee benefits is increasing at a much higher rate.”

“Prior to enactment of the property tax limitation, the county managed its programs and had built a $14 million reserve fund,” noted North Kitsap Comissioner Steve Bauer. “Once the recession is over, the county will still have to deal with the effects of the 1 percent limitation by either cutting programs or increasing revenues or both.”

Without mentioning him by name, Avery and Bauer apparently want to lay the blame for the county’s fiscal problems at the feet of Tim Eyman, author of Initiative 747, which 56 percent of Washington state voters supported in 2001.

Much to the consternation of politicians who’d prefer a blank check written on our accounts to pay for their pet programs, I-747 prevents local governments from raising property taxes by more than 1 percent annually without approval of the voters.

The point is, people like Avery and Bauer insist on lamenting the first part of the law while glossing over the second — the fact that property taxes can be raised to any level needed, as long as the voters agree.

The problem, then, isn’t that I-747 places an unreasonable limit on revenues. It’s that the politicians, for all their caterwauling, somehow can’t make a convincing case for raising taxes with our approval and can no longer do so without it.

And somehow, this is Tim Eyman’s fault. Why exactly, isn’t clear. But it certainly makes more sense to scapegoat one individual than the 56 percent of voters who supported his initiative.

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