Washington State on Path to Dysfunctional Government?

The Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court this past weekend denounced his state’s overuse of the referendum process, stating that it has made California’s state government “dysfunctional“.

Similarities in the issues he raises arise with repeated Eyman initiatives, like I-1033, here in Washington State.

As reported in the New York Times, Chief Justice Ronald M George

denounced the widespread use of the referendum process to change state laws and constitutions. And he derided California as out of control, with voters deciding everything from how state budgets are spent to how farm animals are managed.

The state is unusual, he said, because it prohibits its Legislature from amending or repealing many types of laws without voter approval, essentially hamstringing that body — and the executive branch.

Justice George’s remarks come at a time of severe budget crisis in California stemming from a variety of factors, including mandates from ballot initiatives …

Justice George said that perhaps the “most consequential” impact of the referendum process is that it limits “how elected officials may raise and spend revenue.” He added, “California’s lawmakers, and the state itself, have been placed in a fiscal straitjacket by a steep two-thirds-vote requirement — imposed at the ballot box — for raising taxes.”

He added: “Much of this constitutional and statutory structure has been brought about not by legislative fact-gathering and deliberation, but rather by the approval of voter initiative measures, often funded by special interests. These interests are allowed under the law to pay a bounty to signature-gatherers for each signer. Frequent amendments — coupled with the implicit threat of more in the future — have rendered our state government dysfunctional, at least in times of severe economic decline.”

Similarities between the issues he raises about California and our situation here in Washington State are pretty obvious.

Previously voters passed Initiative 960 which requires a 2/3 vote of the Washington State Legislature to raise taxes or a vote of the people.
Initiative 960 even considers repealing special interest Tax Exemptions as raising revenue and requiring a 2/3 vote. So we’re not even able to just take a majority vote to repeal Tax Exemptions which aren’t working.

A 2/3 vote of the Legislature is needed to change an initiative for the first two years after it is enacted. Next Legislative session in January will mark the end of two years and I-960 can be changed with a simple majority vote.

But if I-1033 passes, it would put in that place that public votes would be required to raise taxes. Eyman’s Initiative 1033 does not just deal with freezing the state budget but also that of all 39 counties and 281 cities. For another two years this requirement could only be overturned by a 2/3 vote of the Legislature.

Any revenue increase by cities, counties or the state above Eyman’s recession level budget freeze would require a vote of the people despite whatever changes are made to I-960.

All this sounds like and is leading us down the road to California’s dysfunctional governing process that the California’s Chief Justice warns the public about.

Washington voters need to realize that Eyman’s straight jacket approach to government is lunacy and destined to make things much worse in Washington State. Vote No on I-1033.

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