Voters beware. You’re advised to read Initiative 1033 before you vote. It is not as simple a measure as Tim Eyman wants you to believe it is.
Initiative 1033 proposes to radically alter our system of local control of government for our 39 counties and 281 cities in Washington State as well as our state government.
Initiative 1033 would impose a virtual freeze on all spending above this year’s recession level. It would require that all future spending of tax revenue above this year’s level would require budgeting by repeated referendum.
Initiative 1033 radically changes Washington’s current tax policies by putting more of the tax load on lower income taxpayers.
You see Tim doesn’t trust us to elect our own representatives to run our cities and our counties. He obviously doesn’t think voters like you have made the right choices in electing our current public officials. And he doesn’t trust you to vote “right” in the future.
So he proposes to change the rules for everyone. His cynicism of the way we currently do things is because he thinks everyone should believe as he does that our locally elected officials are not capable of making the right decisions. The right decision of course is that the best government is the smallest one and the one that taxes the least. One size fits all he says. It says nothing about local needs and priorities. And the only state which has adopted a measure like I-1033, Colorado, recently suspended it because it drastically reduced public services and cost taxpayers a lot more money out of their pockets.
Tim wants to take away all powers of our local elected officials to make any more budget decisions above the current level of spending. He says that budgeting by referendum is the answer for every city and county in the state.
Elections cost money and are not a quick way or efficient way to approve budgets. Budgeting by referendum opens us up to more campaigning and decisions made by slogans and sound bites and campaign money.
Are you and your neighbors ready to take on this new civic responsibility? Our lives are already pretty busy just working and taking care of our families. We’ve had representative democracy since our country was founded; electing people to make the business decisions every day that are needed to keep our communities livable and financially sound. I do not see any crisis that demands such a radical change as Eyman proposes.
Under I-1033 any tax dollars above the baseline will be rebated to property owners if the public does not vote. One immediate problem is that not everyone owns property but we all pay sales taxes which last year made up 57% of our state revenue.
So if you are a senior citizen or a working family and you don’t own property, under Initiative 1033 you’ll still pay the same taxes as before but you’ll see no tax rebate or increased public services. Some 35% of Washington households are occupied by renters according to the US Census Bureau.
There are additional problems with this wealth distribution scheme that Eyman proposes. The amount of rebate that you get is not proportional to the sales taxes or other fees you pay but to the amount of property you own. So the more property you own the larger your rebate.
But wait, did Tim also tell you that first some 40% of the rebate must go to pay commercial property taxes. Businesses already have a tax exemption on paying sales taxes on things they buy for resale. But they’ll still benefit under I-1033.
That’s because Tim says that when more revenue comes in as the economy improves the one and only thing it should be used for is to pay property taxes unless voters vote for something else. The voting process is intended to a another hurdle to make it more difficult for communities to provide public services.
Eyman says that that helping businesses and wealthy property owners pay their property taxes is more important than restoring any public services and jobs cut as a result of the current recession, or providing more money for schools or repairing roads or keeping parks and libraries open or hiring new police or fireman or investing in new infrastructure or helping seniors stay in their homes or paying for health care for seniors or children.
Also keep in mind when you consider Initiative 1033 that Tim is misrepresenting our state and local tax burden to to make you think we are severely overtaxed. He says in the voters pamphlet that we are the 8th highest taxed state in the country. What he doesn’t tell you is that this number includes your Federal taxes which I-1033 doesn’t change. Being 8th including Federal taxes is not surprising in that we are the eighth highest state in terms of income per capita.
The real tax ranking to consider is that done by the conservative Tax Foundation that actually says we rank 35th lowest (with 1 being the highest) in terms of state and local tax burden. They rank our property taxes as 25th lowest. We rank number 1 in sales taxes which I-1033 does not change.
You can read their analysis here. Tax Foundation Study
The final decision on I-1033 ironically is that of the same voters that Eyman doesn’t trust to elect the “right” public officials. Do not take your vote lightly because Initiative 1033 would impose significant long term drastic changes in Washington State for years to come. Here are a few questions you should answer before you vote on Initiative 1033:
1. Do you agree with Tim that your property taxes are so “obscene and unsustainable” that you’re ready to jettison our current system of local and state representative democracy and institute budgeting by repeated referendums?
2. Do you think it’s necessary to permanently freeze public spending of not just the state but all 39 counties and 281 cities in our state at our current recession level?
3. Do you think that paying the property taxes of corporations and businesses and shopping malls and real estate developers and owners of large homes and vacation homes is more important than using sales taxes and other revenue for educating our children, providing health care for seniors and children, providing more police and fire protection, keeping libraries and parks open and fixing our roads and bridges?
4. Do you support changing our state and local tax policy to prioritize transferring tax dollars collected from those without property, like renters and senior citizens and working families, to help pay the taxes of those with property?
As I said I-1033 is not a simple measure. These are just a few of the questions this measure raises. Reading and understanding what Initiative 1033 does is important to do before you vote. Best wishes in your deliberations.
You can read a copy of the initiative here. Text Initiative 1033