No on Initiative 864

Essay At A Glance

Spin maestro Tim Eyman has flipped the switch and revved up his initiative factory for another year of fanatic anti-tax crusading. But for Eyman, the stakes are even higher this year. His reputation is on the line.

Since his tearful confession about stonewalling the public in regards to the money he took, and hid, he has only gotten one initiative past the voters, I-776, which narrowly survived a legal challenge on appeal. Even that initiative did not accomplish its primary goal: taking out Sound Transit’s Link light rail system.

Now Eyman is pursuing a follow-up to I-747, his destructive scheme to artificially limit property taxes. For 2004, he has decided something much more sweeping is in order. He’s proposing to roll back property taxes by 25% across the board.

Eyman first announced his effort last June to roll back property taxes. At the time, he had his sights set on eviscerating state property taxes. But that’s a revenue source dedicated exclusively to public schools. Apparently figuring that’s not the right target, Eyman’s decided to switch gears and go after local property taxes.

Tim figured that if he went local, he would have less opposition, because it’s hard to rally and unify a coalition of literally hundreds of communities across the state against such sweeping cuts.

With this reasoning in mind, Eyman set out to create his monster for the upcoming initiative season.

As usual, Eyman claimed the effort to produce this meat cleaver of an initiative was extremely thoughtful process, full of reviewing, legal research, and careful attention to details: “After months of study and analysis, the final draft of the 25% Property Tax Initiative is completed. We didn’t stop revising and refining until it was as good as it could possibly be. This multi-month effort was invaluable.”

Whatever number it eventually receives, this latest monstrosity would unquestionably be a disaster for Washington STtae.

Already reeling from cutbacks in public services, local governments are still trying to backfill funding losses caused by past Eyman initiatives. Fire districts, library systems, and police departments are already hurting and can’t absorb more cuts.

We get what we pay for. Taxes are our way of ensuring we can collectively afford the services that make our communities strong. The generations that came before knew we can’t fight fires with no money, or keep communities safe, or provide library materials and information technology, or provide recreational opportunities on our parks and public lands. Taxes ensure that the public services our families and firms rely on are always there.

Tim Eyman shamefully wants to pit us against our own government.

Municipal leaders are already sounding the alarm about this latest scheme. They know there isn’t any “fat” to absorb these cuts.

What’s worse, the initiative penalizes the local governments that are actually doing an efficient job with their budget.

The cuts would be painful and direct. Fire districts would be forced to announce layoffs in personnel and roll back emergency medical services. Libraries would have to scale back hours, opening later and closing earlier. Parking and other user fees would become even more ubiquitous at our public parks.

This is the road to ruin.

By design, the initiative would primarily benefit wealthy people and large corporations who own a lot of property… not coincidentally, the same kind of people who have been financing Eyman’s initiatives for years.

There’s no denying that Washington State has an unfair, regressive tax system. But this is no way to fix it. Happily, efforts are underway to explore ways to make our tax code fairer. One idea is to create a homestead exemption, which would be targeted at middle and lower income families. The wealthy would pay slightly more, while everyone else would pay less. Public services wouldn’t lose any funding.

There is a road to disaster, and a road to prosperity. Tim Eyman wants to take us down the road to disaster. We at Permanent Defense believe we must take the road to prosperity. Join us in saying NO to Eyman’s latest scheme to gut funding for the essential public services that anchor our communities, and yes to safeguarding Washington’s future.

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