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Voters should be willing to pay cost of initiatives they approve

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Dec. 18, 2011 at 2:24 pm with 5 Comments »
December 16, 2011 5:26 pm

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The state’s current budget morass makes at least one point all too obvious: The pot of money available to fund services is a finite one. Add a new service to be performed, and something else has to be cut.

When state legislators enact a new program, they have to find the funding for it – either by cutting something else or paying for it with a new tax or user fee. That’s because the state constitution requires them to balance the budget.

Unfortunately, state voters are under no such obligation. When they approve an initiative, they essentially toss the ball to the Legislature to figure out a way to pay for it.

That’s not a great way to run a government – especially in tight economic times.

To address a $1.4 billion revenue shortfall, lawmakers are looking at slashing important state programs – including education, health care for vulnerable people, drug and mental health treatment, and staff for state parks. Yet at the same time, they are faced with funding a voter-improved initiative to provide more training for home health care workers – at an estimated cost of $18 million in the next two years.

If a bipartisan group of legislators – including state Sen. Debbie Regala, D-Tacoma – have their way, that kind of unfunded mandate will become a thing of the past. In their own proposed initiative to the people, they seek to amend the state constitution to require that future statewide ballot measures include funding mechanisms if additional costs are identified.

Would voters blithely approve a ballot measure if they also had to approve a higher sales or property tax? Maybe, but it likely would be a tougher sell.

The proposed constitutional amendment (Senate Joint Resolution 8218) is in its early draft stages, so very likely it will undergo revisions. One lawmakers might consider is the flip side of unfunded mandates: unidentified cuts. If an initiative seeks to abolish an existing revenue source, shouldn’t it also have to identify what state services should be cut to accommodate the drop in revenue?

The principle is important: When voters consider whether to approve or reject a ballot measure, they should be aware of the true costs involved – costs they will end up paying one way or the other.

Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. I agree. Most of the people that keep voting to raise property taxes in this horrible recession have no clue what they’re doing: throwing hundreds (thousands) more homeowners into foreclosure with every property tax increase from another levy.

    For those who don’t know about RESPA, it means that a lender can increase a homeowners monthly escrow account # TIMES the amount of the actual tax increase. Not all banks take advantage of this crooked, evil law, Citibank for one does.

    http://mortgage-x.com/articles/escrow.htm

    Yes, I am on a mission to educate people about Respa, I got screwed big time this year.

    I also feel strongly that there needs to be a method in place to tax renters with children for school levies, they may then think twice before automatically voting yes. I am aware the idea is that the tax increase gets passed from the landlord to the renter, but I don’t buy that it really works or influences their vote. I am sick & tired of having my house payment go up every year to help my neighbor’s children. i love kids, & in a decent economy I wouldn’t be saying this; but despite being a small biz owner since 1998 & working 60-100 hours a week since then with less than 2 weeks vacation TOTAL in 13 years, I am constant danger of foreclosure.

    I am in my mid 50’s & this is the worst recession of my lifetime.

  2. I hate typos. Above, “# times” should have been “3 times”

  3. Lorakittle says:

    I for one do not wish to sell the children of the state short because of the greed of the adults. If we take and take from our children’s education, we take from our future. I for one want the children of this country, not just this state to be well educated, and ready to lead this country. While I feel for the plight of those having been foreclosed on, and in danger of foreclosure, most find themselves in such a position, due to greed, and living above their means, and taking mortgages they knew they could not repay, or taking 2nd mortgages because they wanted a better kitchen or bathroom. The children, elderly, medically fragile, etc., should not have to pay that bill. I for one would gladly pay additional sales tax to fund those things in danger of being cut.

  4. alindasue says:

    moo said, “I also feel strongly that there needs to be a method in place to tax renters with children for school levies…”

    Renters do pay increased property taxes in the form of higher rent to cover the landlords’ higher costs.

    I like the idea of this new resolution. I hope to see it go through. I hope it also includes the costs of the so-called “decreased taxes” initiatives (like Tim Eyman’s frequent initiatives, which also tend to be unfunded mandates) also in with those costs that have to be accounted for by the initiative writers.

  5. I like the idea of this new resolution. I hope to see it go through. I hope it also includes the costs of the so-called “decreased taxes” initiatives (like Tim Eyman’s frequent initiatives, which also tend to be unfunded mandates) also in with those costs that have to be accounted for by the initiative writers.

    X2

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