June 10, 2010
Washington state voters face critical decision-making. The success of the state’s economy and job-creation efforts hinges largely on Initiative 1053. Proponents have been working feverishly to qualify I-1053 for the Nov. 2010 ballot. It would restore monetary protections for businesses and all other taxpayers from the perennial chicanery of the state Legislature.
It requires a two-thirds legislative vote for any new taxes. In my view, it insures a higher degree of transparency, which is constantly lacking in the Legislature.
“Reinstating the supermajority vote for new taxes has never been more important with the very real threat of even more tax increases in the 2011 session – or earlier,” says Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business, which is also known as the state’s chamber of commerce.
“This warning has been confirmed by recent news from Governor Gregoire that a special session may be necessary as the state budget may be in doubt due to lawmakers relying on federal funds that are not likely to materialize,” he adds.
But it has not yet qualified for the ballot with enough voter signatures.
“With less than a month left to gather signatures some may wonder how many of the initiative campaigns will be successful and qualify for the ballot,” says Jason Mercier, director of the Center for Government Reform for the Washington Policy Center.
“One measure, I-1053, may benefit from news from the Office of Financial Management that the state is facing at least a $3 billion deficit in the next budget,” asserts Mr. Mercier.
“This means lawmakers’ first choice to solve the problem next year may be tax increases unless the voters re-impose for the fourth time the restriction that tax increases require a two-thirds vote,” he warns.
Fourth time? Yes, he’s right – a fourth time. For many years, I’ve been writing about legislative chicanery that has damaged commerce and taxpayers. Every time voters approve restrictions on spending, lawmakers find ways furtively and overtly to circumvent the will of voters.
In 2010, lawmakers suspended transparency provisions and the provisos of I-960, which voters passed in 2007. It mandated tax increases could only be implemented by a two-thirds supermajority vote in the Legislature or upon approval by voters. But then, after the destroying voters’ protections and refusing to require efficiencies in state government, the Legislature passed more than $800 million in additional taxes.
But there is some good news. Sixty percent of voters are in favor of the requirements of I-1053, according to the Washington Poll in May, 2010. In another Washington Poll, More Voters Say Washington State is Headed the Wrong Way.
In a sense, that’s encouraging because the Washington State Office of Financial Management echoes a dire warning about future budget issues that I’ve been giving for what seems like forever.
Its budget-writing instructions for state agencies for the 2011-13 Biennium states:
“A preliminary estimate by OFM indicates that a gap of about $3 billion between expected revenues and basic spending pressures (not including any new programs or policies) will need to be addressed to balance the budget,” according to budget instructions by the state office of financial management ( see page 7 of the document).
“Although stronger-than-predicted revenue growth would help remedy this situation, revenues would need to grow by more than 9 percent per year to make up most of the projected gap, a rate which is unlikely to be achieved,” the authors warn.
From the Coach’s Corner, for more information, here are resource links:
Association of Washington Business – www.awb.org
Washington Policy Center – www.washingtonpolicy.org
Enterprise Washington – www.enterprisewashington.org