Thousands of local citizens signed an initiative petition with a title, Opportunity for Olympia, that was spirit-lifting. Signers were told that when the initiative passed, Olympia high school graduates and GED recipients would receive grants equal to the cost of one-year's tuition at the current community college rate. And who would pay for that? City residents with a household income of $200,000 plus.
However the truth is, if Initiative 1 passes in November, every single Olympia taxpayer will pay for it. Here's how:
The Washington State Supreme Court has twice ruled that graduated income taxes are unconstitutional. Despite the fact that the City Council does not support it, should the initiative pass, the City will in fact be sued and then obliged to defend the initiative's legality in the courts. To offset the fees of constitutional lawyers, the City would need to reduce funding for services like public safety, parks, road repairs and downtown revitalization efforts. It's anticipated the legal case would be lengthy and therefore very costly.
But what disturbs me most is the initiative was disingenuously proposed and financed by a well-organized, Seattle-based group that is probably less focused on Olympia high school graduates and more focused on using our progressive citizenry to test the constitutionality of a potential statewide income tax. Although personally I would support a legislatively mandated income tax and deeply believe in the multiple values of a college education, I do oppose the Seattle group's choice of Olympia as an income-tax test case.