October 18, 2009 in Opinion

I-1033 con: One-size formula doesn’t fit all; voters already hold leaders accountable

Mary Verner Special to The Spokesman-Review

About the author

Mary Verner is mayor

of Spokane.

To officials struggling to maintain essential public services, Tim Eyman’s latest initiative brings a sinking feeling.

Initiative 1033 would limit state, county and city government revenues to a formula of inflation and population growth.

The insidious appeal hides peril: As we endure the deepest recession since 1929, I-1033 would pull both government and private sectors deeper into the mire.

Business leaders, statewide and in Spokane, are concerned about I-1033 trapping us in recession, with impacts on community priorities like public safety, transportation and economic development.

The nonpartisan Office of Financial Management calculates that over the next five years, I-1033 would reduce city and county revenues for local needs by $2.8 billion, and state revenues for education, health, environmental and other services by $5.9 billion.

I-1033 mirrors Colorado’s “Taxpayer Bill of Rights,” which caused so much damage to Colorado’s public schools, roads and economy that voters suspended it in 2005.

I-1033 would force every Washington community into a one-size formula, taking away local control to prioritize our community’s needs.

Governments across Washington behaved prudently during better times and put extra revenues into reserves. In Spokane County, those savings have provided: care for citizens’ basic needs while medical costs skyrocketed; snow removal during two sequential extraordinary winters; and steady services while gasoline spiked to $4 a gallon. Under I-1033, government “rainy day” accounts would vanish and there would be no reserves to support us in tough times.

Where would revenues go instead? Individual property owners would receive property tax rebates of $20-$50 per year. But services that benefit all property owners, businesses and citizens – such as law enforcement, fire response, street repairs, building permits – would disappear into a quagmire of unfunded priorities.

Voters could approve revenues on a piecemeal basis, but I-1033 ignores the costs of putting items on the ballot (approximately $300,000 per election item; extra for a voter pamphlet). Businesses and residents would be required to track dozens of separately voted special taxes.

Voters already authorize basic revenue tools and hold elected officials accountable to spend appropriately. Across the political spectrum, Spokane-area elected officials dislike this initiative’s dictates that remove local choice.

In the Spokane area, public school coffers are at bare bones, stifling efforts to develop our work force for business prosperity. Public health budgets are already devastated by previous Eyman initiatives. Spokane-area governments get by with half the revenue of comparable areas, striving to deliver first-class public services on economy budgets. Under I-1033, citizens will be forced to accept lower service levels because public agency budgets are at the breaking point.

Measures similar to I-1033 were introduced in 28 states. In the only state that adopted the idea, it failed miserably. See how Colorado’s children and businesses suffered – as we could expect for Washington – at no1033.org.

I-1033 might look like an oasis, but it’s only a mirage. I-1033 will sink us all. Vote no on I-1033.

There are seven comments on this story. Click here to view comments >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email