Initiative guru Tim Eyman’s arguments for a supermajority requirement for all legislatively enacted tax increases are well documented. He says it curbs wasteful spending, forces lawmakers to work across political aisles, and requires lawmakers to make a stronger case for revenues.
But the left-leaning Washington State Budget and Policy Center issued a sharply critical report today that says Eyman’s initiative efforts have also killed off 18,000 jobs including teachers and child-welfare advocates. At the same time, the report says, Initiative 1053 adopted two years ago has slowed the economic recovery from recession and kept the state from making investments in healthcare and education that support jobs and a strong economy.
“The supermajority law has made it nearly impossible for lawmakers to take a responsible and balanced approach to Washington’s ongoing economic problems. Instead, just a handful of lawmakers – those who are ideologically opposed to any tax increase for any purpose – have forced the majority to accept unnecessarily deep cuts to public health and education priorities in the last few years,” the report says.
Authored by fiscal analyst Andy Nicholas, the report comes a few months before voters are poised to weigh in on the two-thirds supermajority requirement yet again – this time in Initiative 1185, which Eyman is sponsoring.
You can read the report, which cites more than $10 billion in spending cuts since 2009, here. It goes on to say that for every $1 in new taxes that were raised, $17 in services have been cut.
In a conference call in which the center’s executive leader Remy Trupin and Nicholas announced their report, I asked about the lost jobs – suggesting that some of the eliminated state positions were part of an effort to streamline state government and make it cheaper to operate. Nicholas said some of the cuts might have been justified but the job losses included 6,000 local education jobs and child protection workers.
He said the cuts also came at a time there is greater demand for health services and job training.
Another reporter asked whether jobs would not also have been lost if taxes had been raised instead of cutting the public sector positions. Nicholas said that went beyond the scope of the study. But he said it is accepted mainstream economic theory that the most damaging move by government in a recession is cutting public services.
Nicholas said the way it works is that reductions in public-sector jobs lead to fewer private-sector jobs “because you are sucking demand out of the economy.’’
Eyman was not fazed by the criticisms. In an email response to the report, he said:
Whatever plays out at the ballot this fall, a King County judge has ruled that I-1053 is an unconstitutional limitation of the Legislature’s powers. Arguments are expected next month on an appeal to the state Supreme Court. The lower court’s ruling is here.