This fall Washington voters will have yet another Tim Eyman initiative to consider. Eyman is a local initiative machine, having worked on at least 15 other initiatives to the people—and one referendum—on topics ranging from taxes and the size of government, to eliminating affirmative action. A new report from the Washington State Budget and Policy Center takes a closer look at Eyman’s latest effort, I-1033.
I-1033 is reminiscent of another Washington State initiative supported way back when by another campaigner for reducing government, Linda Smith. Her initiative to the people Initiative 601 held increases in government spending to the same rate of increase as the state’s population growth and inflation. That initiative became law more than 16 years ago, in 1992, but was gradually pared back by subsequent legislatures to address problems in essential services like education and safety created by the limits. One main difference between I-601 and I-1033 is the creation of an account that would reduce state property taxes when revenues exceed the limits set by the initiative.
There is only one other state that has passed this kind of initiative, Colorado, and all indications are that it was a disaster.
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The Center’s report finds, after a close look at the effects of TABOR on Colorado that:
In Colorado, core public structures deteriorated under TABOR. From 1992 to 2005, the state experienced significant decay in health care, K-12 and higher education, public safety, transportation infrastructure, and other basic public services.
The report further concludes that the impacts on Washington State are likely to be even worse since Colorado voters approved their TABOR measure during a time of relative prosperity, while today Washington, and all states, are in the midst of the worst economic downturn in half a century. That means the cap is set at an extreme low and stays low.