RE: Given the state’s newest revenue forecast…

Legislation & TestimonyRethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

Washington’s Legislature passed a budget last spring that relied on revenue forecasts which were too optimistic. The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council yesterday projected that the state will collect $1.4 billion less in taxes between now and 2013 than it had previously estimated.

Consequently, Governor Gregoire and lawmakers must now figure out how to close yet another deficit, after having already eliminated or slashed vital public services earlier this year.

Unless the governor and lawmaker decide to raise revenue to close the shortfall, there is no way that this deficit can be closed without hurting the lives of Washington families, especially seniors, youth, and veterans. We are the past the point, figuratively speaking, where we are scraping bone as a state, in terms of our public services. Without new revenue, we’ll have to chop off limbs.

The governor and state lawmakers ought to call upon those who fiercely oppose raising revenue – including Tim Eyman and his corporate allies – and insist that they help write a modified state budget. The time has come for the people responsible for bringing us Initiative 1053 to take responsibility for the consequences stemming from the outcome of the election they bought.

Tim Eyman has turned himself into a full-time citizen – sorry, make that corporate – lawmaker. If lawmaking is what he wants to do, then he needs to be accountable like any other lawmaker. We have a fiscal emergency.

This is an all hands on deck situation.

We at NPI propose that the state begin closing this $1.4 billion shortfall by sunsetting outdated and unnecessary tax loopholes.

For instance, there is a loophole on our books now which allows Wall Street banks to avoid paying business and occupation taxes on the interest or investment earnings made from the interest from residential first mortgages. There are dozens upon dozens of loopholes like this that could be closed, which could save what is left of our public services from being further eviscerated.

If Tim Eyman and his sympathizers do not want to raise revenue as we propose, then they must spell out what they want to cut. That is the only other choice. Eyman said today, “With I-1053, tax increases become an absolute last resort… Olympia must exhaust all other options first. That’s what the people want.”

Actually, what people want is for the economy to get better. But it won’t as long we keep wrecking government and destroying public services, which is the only course of action that I-1053 was designed to allow.

We encourage reporters and lawmakers to take every opportunity to ask Tim Eyman: What “other options” do you have in mind?

Should we cut off our universities and colleges and say, “You’re on your own! No more state money!” Should we begin releasing prison inmates early? Should we end Apple Health or Disability Lifeline entirely?

As a state, we can either move forward or slide backward. We can move forward by raising revenue to save vital public services that we all depend on. Or, we can slide backward by eliminating services, laying off more public workers, and abandoning people who desperately need help.

There isn’t a third choice.

Our elected lawmakers have spent the last decade backfilling like crazy, cleaning up after unelected lawmakers like Tim Eyman. Well, the days when we could backfill and mitigate the ramifications Eyman’s initiatives are over.

Now come the days of reckoning.

For too long, Governor Gregoire and lawmakers have tried to ignore Tim Eyman because they haven’t wanted to confront him.

But we need a confrontation. Washingtonians need to be given an opportunity to think about what kind of state they want to live in before the governor and Legislature play TimCity for real. If Eyman and his corporate backers want a budget with no new revenue in it, they need to help write that budget. The governor and state lawmakers should insist that they participate in identifying cuts.

And reporters should start replying to every email Tim Eyman sends with a simple one-liner: Hey Tim… what do you think we should cut?

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