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I-1185 voters: Don’t also expect more state services

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Sep. 13, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
September 13, 2012 5:01 pm

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

If recent history is any guide, Washingtonians in November will elect a slew of liberal Democrats to the Legislature, most with hopes of spending more on education, health care and social services.

At the same time, voters will enact a measure – Initiative 1185 – that will effectively prevent those Democrats from raising more revenue to pay for those hopes. I-1185 would require a two-thirds majority in the Legislature for new taxes unless they are approved by a vote of the people.

Welcome to Washington, where a big schizoid chunk of the electorate seems to want a generous state government – without spending another nickel on it.

For the record, we’ll recite our customary objections to supermajority requirements.

Washington has a representative system of government. Lawmakers are supposed to make policy decisions on a democratic basis; if voters don’t like the decisions, they are free to remove the lawmakers come election day.

A two-thirds majority requirement is inherently undemocratic. It effectively gives opponents of a tax proposal twice the voting power as its supporters. The citizens behind the opposition get twice the political power as those who favor the tax.

Obviously, we oppose I-1185 ­­­– not that we expect it to fail.

In an electorate less conflicted than Washington’s, anti-tax forces wouldn’t need initiatives; they’d simply elect a majority of like-minded lawmakers. Here, though, many anti-taxers vote for Democrats – while also voting to keep them barking in the yard on chain leashes.

Tim Eyman takes this political conundrum to the bank.

Eyman makes his living ginning up initiatives, including I-1185. He and his partners sponsored the last two of the four supermajority initiatives Washingtonians have passed since 1993.

He notes out that the Legislature – those tax-loving Democrats! – can easily revise or repeal an initiative two years after its passage. Hence the urgency of recycling the measure on a regular basis.

We’d complain, except that the perpetual supermajority project keeps Eyman away from another of his perennial causes – trying to micromanage Washington’s highways with initiatives that target congestion-relief measures. Fortunately for drivers, he tends to lose those campaigns.

This year, I-1185 again promises no new taxes. And some brave candidates are saying the state must spend $1 billion more on public schools and on Medicaid and on the environment, etc.

Plenty of voters will buy both pitches.

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