Think the recent budget passed by the State Legislature was bad? If so, be prepared for something much, much worse if we are naïve enough to say yes to Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1033 this November: A permanent recession.
I-1033, the latest in a series of cynical and poorly written Eyman initiatives, is perhaps his most dangerous one yet. Basically, it freezes services at their current levels, prohibiting government from investing almost any more than what it invested the previous year in schools, roads, parks, libraries, pools, or police and fire protection, to name a few examples.
Instead, under I-1033 any extra money in the treasury over this artificial limit would have to be redistributed to property owners, with the wealthiest (like Bellevue Square owner and Eyman donor Kemper Freeman Jr.) getting big payouts. People who own no property would continue to pay the same in taxes they pay today. Consequently, they would be robbed twice: first because the public services we all depend on would be eviscerated due to lack of investment, and second, because they would get zero dollars and zero cents back. Renters beware: I-1033 is not just a recipe for economic devastation, but a giant scam.
The impact to our communities if I-1033 passes would be both broad and deep. Service freezes would result in layoffs, because there wouldn’t be enough money to pay currently employed public servants, like firefighters. Not only would this make our communities more dangerous, lessening our quality of life, but it would cause a rise in unemployment, resulting in more people competing for a scarce number of jobs.
A rise in unemployment is also bad news for business: A laid off firefighter isn’t going to be taking his family out to dinner, to the movies, or doing much of any shopping, except to buy groceries.
The Office of Financial Management has calculated that I-1033 would forcibly wipe out $6 billion in funding for public services at the state level by 2015. That’s $6 billion, with a b, folks – $6 billion that we would not invest in schools and colleges, parks, or health and human services. But it doesn’t stop there. I-1033 would erase another $2.1 billion dollars from city treasuries, and $694 million from county treasuries by 2015. Those are huge numbers.
How do we know I-1033 is going to be awful? We can look at what’s happened in Colorado, where a similar measure has caused predictable and disastrous results.
Consider El Paso County, home to the City of Colorado Springs. Thanks to Colorado’s I-1033, the health department there does not have enough people to inspect restaurants and other food providers biannually as state law requires. On March 1st, 2009, the Denver Post reported, “Department director Kandi Buckland said it’s no coincidence that ‘in 2008, preliminary data showed El Paso County had the largest number of food-borne illness’ in the state.”
No health inspectors means no health inspections, and no health inspections means that nobody is ensuring that the food restaurants serve is safe to eat. Nor is the county regularly inspecting its pools. Last year, according to the Post, its remaining staff were forced to close eighty of them. Six were infected with E. coli.
County offices are typically closed on Fridays, and the sheriff’s office has resorted to parking its cruisers and waiting for calls to come in when gas prices are high.
This is just a taste of what we can expect if I-1033 passes in November.
None of us use all of the services that government provides. But all of us use some of them. And we rely more heavily upon public services during hard times.
Tim Eyman would have us all believe in the idea of a free lunch: that we can have all of these services and not pay for them. It’s a myth. A dangerous, dangerous myth.
I-1033 would be the end of Washington as we know it. Not overnight, of course, but over time. Think death by a thousand cuts. It’s happening in Colorado. Cynical ballot measures have also caused immense harm in California, which is in a state of utter paralysis.
The chaos, bickering, and hardship there is not the future we want for our state. Vote NO on Initiative 1033.
Long-time Eastside resident Andrew Villeneuve is the founder of NPI: revolutionizing grassroots politics. Visit www.nwprogressive.org