Battle Over I-1366 Shifts To November Ballot

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Battle Over I-1366 Shifts To November Ballot

By - September 4, 2015

The Washington State Supreme Court stopped short of removing Initiative 1366 – a dangerous proposal that threatens funding for schools and other services average people rely on – from the November 2015 ballot.

Initiative 1366 would undercut democracy in our state by threatening lawmakers with billions of dollars in cuts to schools, health care, public safety, and other popular investments unless they pass a constitutional amendment giving a minority of legislators the power to overrule the majority in all state tax and budget decisions. The Court’s ruling means it’s up to voters to reject this damaging proposal at the polls later this year.

This proposal is the latest effort from Tim Eyman, who has a long history of promoting tax initiatives that benefit the richest families in Washington state at the expense of funding for education and other investments that benefit all Washingtonians.

The measure would reduce the state sales tax rate to 5.5 percent from 6.5 percent, eliminating $1.4 billion per year in tax revenues, unless policymakers do what Eyman and his ultra-wealthy backers want by passing a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote of the legislature to enact any state tax increase instead of the simple majority (50 percent plus one) required for most other legislative actions.

Voters’ decision on I-1366 will come at a crucial moment in Washington state history. In 2012, the State Supreme Court found that lawmakers have been underfunding public schools in Washington state for decades. Under the Court’s “McCleary ruling,” the legislature and the governor were ordered to increase spending on K-12 education by billions of dollars in order to ensure the state’s children receive the high-quality education they’ll need to compete in the 21st century economy. Complying with the Court’s order without doing irreparable damage to other critical investments like higher education, health care, and child care, will require policymakers to raise additional resources and modernize Washington’s 1930s-era tax system.

I-1366 threatens the state with just the opposite. The two-thirds “supermajority” vote on taxes sought by Eyman would make it virtually impossible to raise new resources for schools required by the State Supreme Court. Instead lawmakers would have to impose devastating cuts to other investments kids from struggling families need to be successful in the classroom, such as nutritious meals, mental health services, and safe housing.

Voters should reject I-1366 at the November ballot to send a clear signal that lawmakers should focus on building a prosperous future for all of Washington state’s kids.

About Andy Nicholas, Senior Fellow

Andy specializes in state budget and tax policy. Since joining the Budget & Policy Center in 2009, he has served on a Legislative Task Force on Tax Preference Reform and has conducted numerous analyses of Washington state’s tax code.

Read more about Andy