I participated in Friday’s work session in Olympia concerning their upcoming legislative effort to repeal the people’s tax advisory votes, a taxpayer protection policy that passed in 2007 and was reaffirmed in 2012.
TVW taped the hearing. For those not able to watch it online, I’ve included a partial transcript and excerpts below:
“Thanks for the chance to speak to you. I’m getting older so I’m gonna try a kinder, gentler approach, as best I can. This year, 1.5 million people voted and participated in all these tax advisory votes. And I think it was a very good thing that that many people were willing to get involved. Every advisory vote is a result of a tax increase. Some of them were big, some of them small, but somebody had their taxes raised.
“And in many cases, the Legislature decided to put an emergency clause on it, making it impossible for citizens to do a referendum. So that option has been taken off the table because of legislative action.
“The voters would prefer that they have the chance to make the final decision on tax increases. They voted for Initiative 695 in 1999 (requiring voter approval for any tax increase) and through some efforts (a lawsuit), that was taken away from the voters.
“The voters gave the most votes for any initiative in state history (Initiative 1185 in 2012) that said we wanted a 2/3 requirement to be able to raise taxes. And (with another lawsuit), that was taken away from the voters.
“This is the last thing they’ve got. It’s the only thing left. The voters would prefer to have some impact on the actual decision itself. But those options have been taken away.
“As far as concerns over costs (of the tax advisory votes), it’s really important to remember that the voters did vote for this (twice). The 5 tax increases you passed, according to OFM, will cost the taxpayers $887 million over the next 10 years. None of the tax increases are temporary, they’re all permanent. So the costs that we’re talking about are pretty miniscule. Budget dust.
“If you’re going to raise people’s taxes, and you’re not gonna let ’em vote on it and you’re not gonna let ’em have a 2/3 vote, and you’re not going to let them have any other impact on the process, that as you’re discussing the most important decision you ever make — taking more of the people’s money — that you’ll know that your constituents will learn how you voted. And they’re gonna find out how much the tax increases are gonna cost them and be able to express an opinion on that. And the courts can’t say that it’s unconstitutional to express an opinion.
“We feel very strongly about this policy. I think people get a lot out of it and it spurs discussion. And it’s discussion that wouldn’t happen otherwise. … After you vote in favor of raising taxes, there’s nothing wrong with putting an extra spotlight on the decision and giving the voters the chance to weigh in. Thank you.”
When asked if I’d “work with them” to repeal the law: “I really feel uncomfortable ‘negotiating’ something I’m not in a position to negotiate. 1.9 million people voted for Initiative 1185 and reaffirmed this policy and I don’t feel like I’m the representative for 1.9 million people. I’m just one of them.“
When asked why there’s only a vote on tax increases when a tax bill raises taxes on some but reduces taxes on others: “If you raise taxes on some people … and reduce taxes on other people … these people don’t care if you gave their money to somebody else. It seems to me that that’s where the focus should be: who you raised the taxes on and should they have some kind of voice in the process.”
“The reason we wanted a vote on each individual tax increase is because each one affects real people’s lives. Somebody’s having money taken away from them that wouldn’t have been taken away if you hadn’t taken that legislative action.”
“We don’t think it’s that much to ask if you’re not gonna refer the increase to the ballot, and you’re not gonna let there be a 2/3 vote, if you’re not going to give the people what they truly want, at least let them know how legislators voted on the bill, and let them know what taxes were increased and how much they’re gonna cost.”
“There’s two simple ways to avoid an advisory vote: don’t raise the tax and then there’s no advisory vote. Or refer it to the ballot and let the voters decide it, and then there’s no advisory vote. If you actually do those two things, you never have to worry about costs, you never have to worry about tax advisory votes.”
You can watch the whole thing here. When you click on this link, you can move the cursor along the bottom of the screen to fast forward. http://www.tvw.org/index.php?option=com_tvwplayer&eventID=2013110089 — Tim’s testimony starts at 21:06.
On behalf of the 1.9 million voters who passed this policy (twice), we will continue to provide our most vigorous defense for this voter-approved policy.