Vote no on I-722: It will suffer same fate as I-695


We now know that Initiative 695 is unconstitutional for the simple reason that too much was in it. I-722 suffers the same flaw and, if approved by voters, will suffer the same fate. The price paid by taxpayers for one more publicly financed appeals process will be the same. The only difference is that the public is forewarned. Those who decry government waste will themselves add to it if this initiative is passed.

The best thing to say about I-722 is that it is not nearly as awful as I-745. In fact, given a few years to recover from the consequences of I-695, restrictions on the property tax may be worth a look. Thanks to last year’s census, we know that we rank ninth in the nation in taxes. Were it not for the fact that Washington is worth spending some money on, we might want to become 15th or 20th someday, although I would hope not 45th or 50th. Quality costs.

Don’t buy the argument that I-722 is one more chance to take a shot at Olympia. It has more to do with reducing local services than reducing state bureaucracy. Our property tax in large measure funds schools, local roads and city and county services. A cap on increases will reduce this funding and will increase the burden on properties that are not appreciating in value to the benefit those that are. The effects are very local.

Washington citizens capped government spending several years ago with Initiative 601. Government can grow at no greater than 6 percent in any one year. I-601 has proven successful in allowing our representatives to debate how essential services can be provided within reasonable expenditure limits. Until I-722, I had not heard it suggested that I-601 was bad law or had resulted in runaway government. But now we are to believe that the citizens were wrong to impose 6 percent growth limits and are incapable of electing a liberal-conservative mix of elected officials who can balance policy, programs and finance through democratic means.

Good economic times and the restrictions of I-601 have brought about a healthy surplus in our state budget while allowing reasonable funding of necessary services. The authors of I-722 suggest that we spend down this surplus to backfill service deficits created by their initiative. This surplus was demanded by voters to avoid the budget disasters of past recessions. True, we are on an economic roll in Washington but our wisest course should be to build a cushion against future recessions now. This is the greatest service to citizens. We would be justifiably outraged if our elected officials blew this surplus on their own through gluttonous spending. Why would we want to do it on our own through I-722?

The chief architect of I-722 no doubt was feeling heady over his I-695 victory in which all the complexities of government were condensed to a few simple sound bites. He convinced a majority of voters that we just need to vote on everything to overcome this tyranny we call representative government. The initiative process, founded on the principle that the people should have a voice when government fails to act, is now being used to tell our elected officials how to act in extreme piecemeal fashion. This tinkering with democracy through misuse of the initiative process has created a tangled web and needs to stop.

Tim Eyman has already announced plans to float another initiative next year, ignoring the fact that we have a lengthy and challenging Legislative session beginning in January. I challenge him and the rather sizeable constituency he leads to defeat the flawed I-722, participate in the process to right whatever wrongs they see, and reserve the initiative process for its intended purpose if a balanced solution to their needs is not produced.

Initiatives should be a rare exception to the democratic process, used only when the Legislature fails in an egregious way to act on the peoples’ will. Voters must recognize that sponsors of I-722 have not made the case that such an extraordinary move is warranted. Go to the polls and vote for whichever liberal, conservative, moderate or extremist suits your political taste. But vote no on I-722 and let our representatives do their jobs.

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