Eyman trying to pull another fast one: Under I-1033 there would be no growth to manage

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

Tim Eyman is trying to pull another fast one.

In a message sent out this afternoon to his supporters and copied to the media, the Mukilteo initiative profiteer dismissed critiques of his latest initiative, I-1033, as “absurd”, without actually providing any cogent counter-arguments. Instead, he merely cited a chart with a couple of lines on it, and stated (in part):

This graph shows that I-1033’s opponents are laughably inaccurate when they talk about ‘cuts in government’ or ‘slashed budgets’ under I-1033 Their Chicken Little, sky-is-falling statements about I-1033 are ridiculous in light of this graph which tracks the growth of government under I-1033.

Actually, what’s ridiculous is that someone who is asking voters to trust his authorship of a change to state law would have the audacity to suggest that a couple of lines on a chart prove there’s nothing to worry about, and offer no further elaboration.

As anyone who has taken basic math knows, data is easily manipulated. The chart that Eyman linked to is  from a Washington Research Council brief and does not even attempt to examine the harm that Initiative 1033 would inflict. However, the text of the brief – which Eyman did not link to or properly cite – does talk about the fiscal harm, although analytically rather than critically. Here’s an excerpt:

Even without passage of I-1033, the budget outlook for 2011–13 is grim. While the 2009 legislature did make substantial real cuts in spending, it also relied heavily on onetime money to balance the 2009–11 budget. Incorporating the June forecast, general fund spending for the biennium exceeds revenues by $1.4 billion. In addition, $2.5 billion in federal stimulus funds are being used to sustain programs that would normally be funded through the general fund. For 2011–13 these programs will shift back to the general fund.

Using OFM’s revenue growth assumptions, general fund revenues are expected to grow by $3.5 billion from 2009–11 to 2011–13.

We have yet to see projections of “maintenance-level” cost increases for 2011–13. Looking backwards, the maintenance level increase for the 2007-09 biennium was $1.4 billion, while the maintenance level increase for 2009-11 was $2.1 billion.

With a $1.4 billion maintenance level increase, the budget gap for 2011–13 would be $1.8 billion; with a $2.1 billion maintenance level increase the gap would be $2.5 billion. I-1033 would expand these gaps to $3.8 billion and $4.5 billion, respectively.

The full brief – not a clipping of a chart – is available at the Research Council’s site.

Note the Council’s use of the phrase “maintenance level” cost increases. That refers to what is necessary to sustain the level of services that we already have. I-1033, as noted, widens the gaps. Another, and better way to put it: Initiative 1033 creates artificial deficits.

The key point that Eyman doesn’t want anybody to understand is that revenue growth does not equal growth of government. This is because, over time, the cost of providing essential services (which is the purpose and function of government) goes up, and can easily outpace revenue growth. If revenue growth isn’t keeping up with demand for services, then service levels can’t be maintained, let alone increased.

Initiative 1033 does not “manage” growth of services, it prevents any to begin with. That is the whole point. Grover Norquist clones like Tim Eyman seek to drown government in a bathtub.

I-1033 deliberately prohibits any available revenue from being invested in schools, parks, police and fire protection, etc. beyond what was invested the year before… with a small and lame amount of padding that supposedly accounts for inflation and population growth.

The reality is that there are many additional factors that cause the cost of services to rise year to year.

Commercial development, ironically, is perhaps the best example. If a business opens a new warehouse somewhere (a large building with a large impact on the community), that warehouse is going to need to be hooked up to utilities (sewer, water, electricity). Whatever municipality it is built in will also have to protect it from break-ins and fires, and will also have to pay for any wear and tear to the roads caused by vehicles going to and from the warehouse. Commercial development has a huge impact on the cost of services, yet Initiative 1033 pretends that it doesn’t.

Then there’s emergency preparedness and disaster response. Initiative 1033 doesn’t account for these factors either. It doesn’t give the state the fiscal flexibility to respond to a tsunami or a lahar, let alone put in place warning and evacuation systems that could save lives in the event of catastrophe.

Those are merely two examples.

Because it freezes services, Initiative 1033 will, over time, slowly ravage our communities. What business out there does not rely on the essential services our government provides to engage in commerce? None. All businesses depend on the basic infrastructure sustained by we the taxpayers to prosper. If that infrastructure is gutted or even neglected, it will harm business (and especially small business) thereby trapping our economy in a permanent recession.

A vote for Initiative 1033 is a vote in favor of gradually destroying our quality of life… that is NOT an exaggeration. This is an incredibly destructive, shortsighted, and cynical initiative with an attractive surface allure, hawked and marketed by Tim Eyman. Washington must reject it this November.

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