Tim Eyman is back with Initiative 1185!
Two years ago, Eyman last offered his trademark initiative to require a two-thirds vote of our legislators for revenue measures, including closing tax loopholes, adjusting the tax code to make it fairer to taxpayers, or adding revenues to state coffers. This chokehold is called the supermajority requirement. And Eyman brings it back every two years because otherwise, the legislature has the power to suspend it in times of need with a simple majority vote.
But 2012 is not 2010 all over again. A lot has changed over the last two years. Now we know the true extent of the budget crisis facing our state and how badly ordinary people are being hurt by what the supermajority rule really does. We have things that need fixing in this state. Perhaps highest on people's minds is the growing funding crisis for K-12 and higher education.
The supermajority rule has directly contributed to making our education funding problem so severe that our state Supreme Court has declared that the state is now in violation of our constitution by underfunding education. That's because the supermajority rule is really the mini-minority veto rule. Just a third of the House or Senate members can block tax measures. Tyranny of the minority has helped drag Olympia into fiscal gridlock and led to huge cutbacks in education funding.
Our schools, community colleges and four-year institutions have had to make up funding gaps with everything from skyrocketing tuition and plummeting student aid at the colleges, to ever more reliance on PTA bake sales for crucial learning supplies and sports participation fees for school athletics.
In the face of this crisis of education and transportation funding, I-1053 proponents have begun reevaluating -- the Metropolitan Seattle Chamber of Commerce comes immediately to mind -- from being supporters two years ago to now joining the opposition to I-1185. According to the Seattle Chamber, "locking the legislature into a supermajority requirement for another two years would make it virtually impossible to address our state's education funding."
Eyman's response is cavalier and indifferent to the problems we face. He says that without his initiative Olympia will, in his words, "go absolutely hog wild raising taxes because people will be saying 'tax us more.'"
I doubt that, and you should too. Washington citizen's average revenue contribution to the public schools per $1,000 of personal income stood at $41.54 in 2009. That is 13 percent below the national average and puts our state's ranking at 44th among the 50 states.
Spending per pupil stands at 7 percent below the national average. Yet in per capita income in 2010 the state ranks 7 percent above the national average. Meanwhile, our state and local tax burden actually ranks 29th from the top in 2009, below even Idaho, Oregon, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan and Hawaii among others.
In the name of empowering taxpayers, Eyman is actually doing exactly the opposite. As Watergate's Deep Throat famously told Woodward and Bernstein: "Follow the money." And the money -- the million-plus dollars contributed to pay the signature gatherers to get I-1185 on the ballot -- comes almost entirely from just four big oil companies and a handful of other deep-pocketed special interests like the Washington D.C. mega-lobby Beer Institute writing six-figure checks. And therein lies the dark secret of the supermajority rule. It's not, as Eyman suggests, to protect ordinary people from the legislature that in our representative democracy we elect to send to Olympia.
It's a sweetheart deal for special interests that need to lobby just a third of our state senators or representatives to block any new tax measure or modify any existing tax loophole to their liking. What does this tell you: Under I-1185 special interest can pass new tax loopholes with just a majority vote. But, eliminating those same loopholes will now require a two-thirds vote. Eyman's initiative isn't about good public policy. It's the lobbyist's cakewalk.
Vote no on I-1185. It's just a sweet deal for the special interests that are paying for it. And a very bad deal for the rest of us.
Doug MacDonald co-chairs the No on I-1185 campaign. He is the former state Secretary of Transportation.