Schmudget Blog

I-1053 Would Handcuff State's Response to Recession

Posted by Andy Nicholas at Jul 02, 2010 11:00 AM |

Today, signatures for Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053 are expected to be submitted to the Secretary of State’s office for review.  If approved, I-1053 would greatly hamper our state’s ability to take a thoughtful and balanced approach to the Great Recession’s on-going impact on the state budget.  The measure would mandate that all tax increases – no matter how small – be subject to a public referendum vote, or a supermajority (two-thirds) vote in the legislature coupled with a nonbinding public advisory vote.

The supermajority requirement distorts rational decision-making by policymakers. Even in normal economic times, the requirement gives a small minority of lawmakers the ability to obstruct important legislation.  The supermajority mandate is especially problematic during recessions, when a handful of legislators can block measures needed to prevent economically damaging cuts to essential public services.

Originally enacted by in 1993, the supermajority requirement was later expanded under I-960 to include a much broader array of state taxes. Initiative 960 also mandated a nonbinding public advisory vote for any tax increase enacted without public referendum vote.  Earlier this year, policymakers temporarily suspended the supermajority vote and the public advisory vote until July 1, 2011.  This action allowed lawmakers to enact a series of modest revenue enhancements that prevented imminent cuts in basic public services like health care and education.

Initiative 1053 would reinstate the supermajority vote and the public advisory vote just before the coming 2011 legislative session.  At a time when core state services are most needed, I-1053 would force legislators to enact yet another round of deep and damaging budget cuts. (Public services have already weathered cuts totaling more than $4 billion in the current biennium.) Such an approach could prolong Washington’s recovery, dampening economic growth while weakening crucial supports for working families.

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