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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Mike Fagan: I-1366 will restrain tax-happy Legislature

By Mike Fagan

Voters have had 22 years of experience with initiatives like this year’s Initiative 1366 that make it tougher for Olympia to raise your taxes.

Regardless of your political leanings — whether you are a Republican, Democrat, or Independent voter — isn’t it better when state government prioritizes spending and reforms government rather than just raising taxes? Olympia has proven time and again that if it’s easy to raise taxes, they will. And they’ve consistently shown us that without these tougher-to-raise-taxes policies, they’ll impose higher taxes on regular taxpayers.

For me, it’s easy to support I-1366: I’ve been a citizen activist and watchdog over the Legislature for 16 years. I’ve seen how Olympia works: There is relentless pressure to raise taxes. In 2005 and 2010, two sessions without the two-thirds vote requirement, a simple majority raised taxes by the billions ($9 billion in higher taxes in 2005 and $6.7 billion in 2010). I didn’t want that to happen at the city level. One of my proudest achievements as a Spokane city councilman in my first term was helping promote a tougher-to-raise-taxes charter amendment that Spokane voters approved in 2012. Together, we permanently changed our city constitution so that tax increases by Spokane city government would forever require a two-thirds council vote. I-1366 is all about giving that same permanent protection at the state level with a two-thirds-for-taxes constitutional amendment. I firmly believe that all taxpayers will benefit if the entire state adopts the same permanent protection Spokane already has.

As a husband and father of three kids, I know how tough it is when the government continually takes more and more because that means less and less for you and your family to spend on your needs and priorities. As a citizen activist, I’ve seen first-hand how tax increases can hurt our local economy and dampen job growth.

Unfortunately, too many politicians don’t get that.

The way it works in Olympia is pro-tax politicians talk about raising taxes on “the rich” but when taxes are increased, you and I get stuck with higher sales taxes, gas taxes, property taxes, car tab taxes, and utility taxes.

Recognizing this political reality, five times the voters have approved initiatives requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature — or majority vote of the people — to raise taxes. In 2012, 1.9 million voters (64 percent) approved the two-thirds requirement, getting more votes than any initiative in state history. Voters clearly want tax increases to be an absolute last resort.

Nonetheless, Olympia won’t listen to the people unless we pass I-1366 in November.

Despite huge increases in revenue, Olympia will continue to face future deficits due to unsustainable spending. Olympia has a spending problem, not a lack of revenue problem. Taxes are high enough already.

We have to protect ourselves. Without the two-thirds requirement, this year’s Legislature raised taxes a jaw-dropping $17.5 billion. They simply can’t control themselves. I-1366 is rightly called the Taxpayer Protection Act. It’s all about protecting taxpayers with a tougher-to-raise-taxes constitutional amendment. After five votes of the people, I believe the voters have earned the right to permanently protect themselves with this common sense policy.

History shows that initiative campaigns on taxes get a consistent reaction from Olympia: legislators interpret the voters’ approval of a tax initiative as a mandate to be fiscally responsible and responsive to the people. And legislators see voters’ rejection of a tax initiative as a green light to increase spending and raise your taxes even more.

What does this mean for I-1366? When voters pass I-1366, Olympia will be prodded to reform government, prioritize spending and re-evaluate existing programs. If voters reject I-1366, Olympia will resort to job-killing, family-budget-busting tax increases.

Protect yourself from Olympia’s insatiable tax appetite by voting yes on I-1366.

Mike Fagan is co-sponsor of I-1366 and represents the 1st District on the Spokane City Council,,

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