The impact of the Great Recession on Washington state and our economy continues to unfold, and likely will for some time to come. Uncertainty has become the new normal, and that's troubling news for everyone.
We all know someone who just lost a job, who's been unemployed, or - worse yet - gave up looking all together. We need a healthy economy for all, and one of the best ways to ensure that is through passage of Initiative 1185. Here's why.
In mid-September, lawmakers heard news that the state will again be in a deficit when they return to Olympia in January. Although the recession may have flattened out, the state is still going to be up to $2 billion short for the 2013-15 fiscal year. Couple that with a Supreme Court decision that will force the state to put another billion or more into K-12, and you have the makings of another tense legislative session.
That's why Washington still needs the two-thirds vote requirement in place, and why we are supporting Initiative 1185. You may remember just two years ago voters approved Initiative 1053, requiring lawmakers to get two-thirds of the Legislature to pass a tax increase or send it to a vote of the people.
This was the fourth time voters approved such a measure - and it passed by a solid 64 percent. But remember: After two years, the Legislature can change an initiative, making it again easier for the state to raise your taxes without first getting at the cause of our spending problems.
That's why Initiative 1185 is on the ballot.
Without it, lawmakers have proven they'll come back to us again and again for more taxes and more fees, rather than make the hard decisions most families and employers have been forced to make.
We saw it this past legislative session, when the pressure to garner a supermajority led to budget reforms, instead of a half-cent sales tax increase.
There's nothing new here: 1185 adds proven, reasonable limits on tax increases. And it gives working families and employers the assurance they need to invest in and help our economy recover.
Higher taxes are the last thing we need right now in this economy. Putting people back to work, funding priority services and getting people the education and training they need to build a stronger Washington state - that's what we should be focusing on and that's how we should be prioritizing our tax dollars.
Uncertainty continues to plague our recovery, both in the public and the private sector. Here in Whatcom County, our unemployment rate is relatively low - about 7.6 percent compared to the statewide average of 8.6 percent. But neither figure accounts for the people who have stopped looking and dropped off the benefit rolls. And until we restore confidence in the economy, those numbers likely won't change any time soon.
Given the possibility of higher taxes, more layoffs and the unknowns concerning the new federal health-care law, most private employers are not in a position to either add more employees or expand operations. And the public sector is in just as tight a squeeze when it comes to hiring.
Opponents say that Initiative 1185, like its predecessors, is unconstitutional. Yet the Washington Supreme Court has unanimously ruled otherwise. Challengers also say the measure would tie the hands of legislators. We believe it would continue to force bipartisanship and a collaborate effort to balance state budgets.
Critics also say lawmakers need every tool in their toolbox to address the state's budgetary problems. We agree, and with 1185 taxes can still happen. Remember, legislators can still pass a tax increase with a simple majority - it just requires voter approval to take effect. So while taxes will still be a tool they can use, it just won't be the first tool they can reach for.
Join us in voting yes on Initiative 1185. Without Initiative 1185, lawmakers will feel no pressure to prioritize spending and taxes will go up. Require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or a majority vote of the people before lawmakers can raise your taxes, again.
Don Brunell is the president of the Association of Washington Business, the state's largest statewide business association with more than 8,000 members.