The League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County opposes Initiative 1366. This initiative would reduce Washington state’s sales tax to 5.5 percent from 6.5 percent unless a constitutional amendment requiring a tw-thirds vote of the Legislature to enact any state tax increase (instead of the simple majority of 50 percent plus one), if passed on Nov. 3.
Two league positions are fundamental in our opposition to I-1366:
One is from the position on education which says, “Obtain a balanced tax structure and maintain uniform assessment practices to ensure equitable and sufficient financing.”
To require a 2/3 vote would prevent most decisions from being feasible and stop progress in Washington state.
The other is the position on state tax policy which says, “Obtain a balanced tax structure that is fair, adequate, and flexible and has a sound economic effect.”
Tim Eyman, the initiative sponsor, says, “I-1366 is essential; without the two-thirds majority vote, Olympia consistently raises taxes ($17.5 billion in tax hikes this year alone)”. However, he neglects to explain that $16 billion of that was an increase in the gas tax to finance a badly needed 16-year transportation revenue package and improvement plan for necessary transportation projects. Very little new revenue was generated to assist the general fund, which finances most of government’s services, including education, parks, health care, social services, etc.
Eyman’s previous initiatives have hurt state and local governments. They have caused revenue to lag far behind inflation and have removed funding for needed programs. And now there is the McCleary decision by the Supreme Court, which requires that the state generate several billion more dollars to amply fund education. This is on top of serious declines in revenue from the 2008 recession, from which the state is just beginning to emerge.
The Legislature was established as a deliberative body in which policy and funding decisions would be negotiated in the best interests of the public at large. A simple majority is hard to achieve when funds are scarce and so many programs are needed. To require a two-thirds vote would prevent most decisions from being feasible and stop progress in Washington state.
I-1366 is contrary to league positions and would seriously undermine the efficacy of Washington state’s public services. The League of Women Voters of Washington urges a no vote on I-1366.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tanya Baumgart is voter services chair for the League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County. Founded in 1920, the League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization with 800 affiliates across the country. It encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Membership is open to men and women of all ages.