A just released report by the Rockefeller Institute of Government confirms analysis that Initiative 1033, if passed by voters in November, will likely make economic recovery in Washington State more difficult. While not directly addressing I-1033, the negative impact of the initiative is clear from the current economic figures.
Steeply declining revenue would reset the baseline from which next year’s inflation plus population growth would occur under I-1033. Analysis by the Washington State Budget and Policy Center notes that deceases in revenue during a recession will permanently lower the baseline and revenue to fund government services in future years.
The Rockefeller Report is entitled “State Tax Decline in Early 2009 was the Sharpest on Record“. Overall it notes that “State tax collections for the first quarter of 2009 showed a drop of 11.7%, the sharpest decline in the 46 years for which quarterly data are available. Combining the census Bureau’s quarterly data with its annual statistical series, which extends back to 1952, the most recent decline in state tax revenues was the worst on record.”
The figures given for Washington State in the report in Table 9 points to a 13.2% drop in sales tax and a 9% overall drop in quarterly state tax revenue comparing the January – March 2008 revenue to the January – March 2009 revenue.
The report also notes in looking ahead for all states that “The January – March quarter was the worst on record for states. The worst decline in sales tax in 50 years represents historic weakness in one of two major tax sources for states. Preliminary data for the April – June quarter suggest that fiscal conditions deteriorated even further …Such extraordinary weakness in revenues, along with continued if more moderate growth in expenditures, make widespread budget shortfalls highly likely this year.”
For Washington State a decreased revenue baseline under I-1033 will mean the emergency budget cuts this year become permanent budget cuts. There will be no new money to reduce classroom size or fund educational reform. Cuts to state health care are permanent. Cuts to all state services will not be restored. And future budget cuts due to the recession lowering the state’s revenue baseline will be necessary.
A state budget that only keeps pace with inflation and population growth under I-1033 is at best only able to keep pace with decreased purchasing power and increased population growth. An ever decreasing ability to fund government services under the recession resetting baseline that I-1033 mandates allows its sponsor Tim Eyman to follow in the footsteps of conservative Grover Norquist and his goal to continually reduce government spending and drown it in the bathtub.
The problem with this philosophy is that it doesn’t track reality. The free market economy does not solve many of society’s problems. Government is needed to help meet basic needs and provide balance and legal protections from those motivated by self interest and greed. History has shown us the shortcomings of societies that only serve the privileged few. It is the vision of being compassionate and providing legal protections and helping people that sets us apart from those like Eyman that make it their life’s mission to berate government serving people.
Taxes provide police and fire protection, free libraries, health care, roads and buses and sidewalks, education, environmental protection, parks and much more. Those that berate taxes like Eyman too often demagogue the issues while using these public services.
Eyman for example went to Washington State University and received a subsidy of his education because public tax dollars paid part of the cost. Maybe he should refund what the state paid for his education. Likewise he went to public school – maybe he should refund what others paid for his education there.
One could go on and on – the point is that government is not some evil leach sucking up tax dollars. It is providing benefits day in and day out that we all use and too frequently take for granted. Taxes are part of the cost we pay to live in our society. While no one really likes to pay taxes, we all benefit from the multitude of services government provides.
You can also find a write up of the Rockefeller Institute report in today’s New York Times.