Opinion

What’s wrong with having lawmakers ask us first?

What’s wrong with going to the voters? It’s a question that Initiative 1033’s opponents can’t or won’t answer.

Like all of our initiatives, I-1033 includes the safety valve of voter approval. Under I-1033, if government decides the automatic increase provided by I-1033 isn’t a big enough increase, lawmakers can go to the voters and ask for more.

Opponents of I-1033 never, ever acknowledge that fact.

With I-601 in 1993, I-695 in 1999, I-747 in 2001 and I-960 in 2007, opponents could never come up with a good response to the safety-valve each initiative provided, which was, “Iif you need more, ask us.”

Not coincidentally, those four initiatives were approved by the voters.

So rather than providing a bad answer to that question, opponents of I-1033 have decided to go with the ostrich approach and pretend it doesn’t exist.

I-1033 provides government with an automatic revenue increase each year of inflation and population growth, the same limit provided by I-601 — that is until Gov. Christine Gregoire and Democrats got rid of it in 2005, which led directly to a $9 billion deficit.

But if they can convince the voters more money is needed or wanted, then such voter-approved taxes or fees are exempt from I-1033’s limit.

Without limits like those in I-1033 (or in I-960 or I-601), the path of least resistance for politicians is to simply raise taxes, jack up fees, artificially inflate property assessments/valuations, use banked capacity to unilaterally increase property taxes above the 1 percent cap, impose a state income tax or create new ways to take more of the people’s money.

With limits like those in I-1033 in effect, then the path of least resistance is to reform government, to prioritize, and to use existing revenues as cost effectively as possible — with the option of going to the voters if they want more.

This is essential because, left to their own devices, predispositions and instincts, politicians cannot control themselves.

They’re like a bunch of kids at Toys R Us — they’ll take it all unless parents are there to remind them, “We can’t afford it.”

I-601’s inflation and population limit on the growth of government worked. In the decade before voters approved I-601 in 1993, the average increase in government growth was a ridiculously unsustainable 17.3 percent per biennium.

In the years following I-601, the growth of government averaged a more sustainable 8.9 percent, almost half the previous rate.

But in 2005, the first thing Gregoire and the Democrats did after gaining control of Olympia was change I-601’s growth limit for government from inflation-plus-population-growth to a 10-year average of personal income growth.

This was effectively no limit at all. As the Washington Policy Center wrote, “Tying increases in public spending to the growth in the average of personal incomes artificially exaggerates the impact of wealthy people’s incomes on state spending. Under this budget rule, state spending and taxation go up for everyone, even though not everyone’s income has increased to keep pace.”

That’s why Gregoire’s first term resulted in completely unsustainable government growth, exploding by 33 percent over four years, which inevitably and predictably led to a massive deficit.

Gregoire’s first term — her first four years were a fiscal roller coaster — provides a perfect example of what happens when politicians have no statutory limits on government’s growth.

I-1033 gets government off the fiscal roller coaster by completing the renewal of I-601, bringing back the reasonable inflation/population limit.

And I-601’s/I-1033’s limit provides for sustainable growth that doesn’t outpace the taxpayers ability to afford it.

And if lawmakers decide, “Hey, that’s not a big enough increase,” they can go to the voters and ask for more.

If they dare.

Tim Eyman has sponsored a series of tax-cutting public initiatives in Washington state.

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