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Left-leaning think tank says Eyman’s two-thirds vote law kills jobs

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Aug. 23, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
August 23, 2012 3:22 pm

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:

The voters overwhelming rejection of a state income tax and no to 2 cents on a can of pop in 2010, combined with the RoadKill Caucus, it’s pretty doubtful that there was the political will in 2011 and 2012 to pass tax increases even with a simple majority vote of the Legislature. Remember it was Gregoire who said “3 strikes, you’re out” when it comes to tax increases (she was referring to the voters rejection of I-1098 and approvals of I-1107 and I-1053) … Besides, 64% of voters approved the tougher-to-raise-taxes I-1053 in 2010 because they know that raising taxes during a recession will only make the recession last longer.

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.

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