Critics of Tim Eyman’s newest tax-limiting initiative say it will add to the state’s budget shortfall in 2011 and hamper the rescue of programs being slashed now because of budget cuts.
“We think it will increase the current deficit by a half-billion dollars,’’ said Jeff Chapman, a fiscal expert for The Washington State Budget and Policy Center, a liberal-leaning group based in Seattle. He compared it broadly Wednesday to the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights from the 1990s.
Initiative 1033 would cap the revenue that the state, cities and counties can use out of their general funds, limiting increases to factors of inflation and population growth. Eyman, who says Colorado’s bill was far more restrictive than his plan, wants to use any excess going into the general fund to reduce property taxes.
Eyman made an appointment for 11 a.m. today to file voter signatures with the Office of the Secretary of State in Olympia. Today is the petition deadline for citizen measures. He hopes to have more than 292,000 signatures and assure it a place on the Nov. 3 ballot.
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Eyman said his measure has a “safety valve” allowing increased revenue anytime voters approve it.
State elections officials say that only Eyman has an appointment to file signatures at the deadline. A separate July 25 deadline looms for Referendum 71, the domestic-partners measure, and others.
Craig Keller, the chairman of I-1043, an immigration measure, said he has not given up hope and still is trying to make the deadline.
“We are waiting on our post office box today and tomorrow. Actually, we got a flood of mail today. I expect some more tomorrow,” Keller said Wednesday. “Whether that gets us over the top, I don’t know yet.”
Eyman’s measure would affect cities and counties as well as the state, which stands to face the single biggest hit.
Chapman told reporters in a conference call Wednesday that officials expect state government’s revenue to grow by $1 billion in 2011 as the economy recovers. But under I-1033, state officials would have to put all but $471 million into tax relief at a time when health-care and education costs are growing several times faster than the inflation or population rate. That would create the added half-billion-dollar deficit, he said.
Chapman offered his assessment of I-1033 during a teleconference with reporters. He joined Carol Hedges, his counterpart with the Colorado group that monitored the effects of that state’s constitutional amendment for taxpayers, better known as TABOR.
“We went from the middle of the pack to bottom of the barrel in spending outcomes and almost every kind of public investment you can imagine,” said Hedges, a senior fiscal analyst with the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute. Colorado fell from No. 35 among the states for public-school investments after TABOR passed to No. 48. It also fell in terms of per-pupil spending and now has the highest percentage of students without health insurance in the nation, she said.
In the end, Hedges said, a coalition partly funded and led by business interests pushed for and won a public vote that suspended the TABOR formula that limited revenue growth. The result is that Colorado is in a “time out” from the limits until 2012, she said.
Washington lawmakers could simply override I-1033 with a 50 percent vote two years or more after its passage. Colorado lawmakers don’t have that ability.
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688
• For links to initiative language, go to www.secstate.wa.gov/elections/initiatives/referenda_2009.aspx.
• For details of the Washington State Budget and Policy Center’s critique of Initiative 1033, go to schmudget.blogspot.com and schmudget.blogspot.com/2009/07/i-1033-whats-at-stake-for-washington.html.