In defense of tax advisory votes — plans for tonight/tomorrow
The most impactful thing government does: taking more of the people’s money by raising taxes. They do it virtually every year. They’re obsessed with it. They have “public hearings” but they’re held in Olympia on weekdays while taxpayers are at work. And since there are hundreds of bills every session, the (shrinking) media’s coverage is diluted and diminished.
Why not do referendums or initiatives to put tax hikes on the ballot for the voters to veto? Because politicians have become masters of manipulation of the process, slapping emergency clauses on bills to make them immune to referendum and delaying bills’ passage so there isn’t enough time to collect initiative signatures.
So in 2007, we crafted an alternative that guarantees a vote even when politicians play their games: tax advisory votes. Thanks to voters approval of I-960 in 2007 and I-1185 in 2012, the voters get to vote on any tax increase unilaterally imposed by the Legislature. There are 4 tax advisory votes on the 2015 ballot.
Politicians whine that tax advisory votes are expensive. Tax advisory votes only appear on the ballot when the Legislature raises taxes unilaterally, without a public vote. If they don’t like the expense of advisory votes, they can avoid them by not raising taxes or referring tax increases to the ballot to let the voters decide.
Politicians complain that tax advisory votes don’t provide enough information: If it was up to them, there would be nothing about tax increases in the voters pamphlet. If they had their way, no one would get to vote. At least with tax advisory votes, the voters learn which taxes were raised, how much they’ll cost, and how legislators voted, and legislators’ contact information. And most importantly, voters get the chance to vote on the tax increases.
Politicians aren’t happy about being second-guessed. Politicians aren’t happy about having their tax votes appear in the voters pamphlet. But tax advisory votes weren’t created to make politicians happy — they were created to hold politicians accountable through greater transparency and public disclosure. They were created to correct a gross injustice: the elimination of the people’s constitutionally guaranteed right to referendum and initiative.
This year, the Legislature raised taxes a jaw-dropping $17.5 billion ($16 billion in “emergency” transportation taxes http://leap.leg.wa.gov/leap/
We wish they hadn’t raised taxes at all; then there wouldn’t be Advisory Vote #10, #11, #12, & #13 on the 2015 ballot. But since they did raise taxes, the voters get to have a say and get to know how their legislators voted on these various tax increases.
Politicians always say they welcome public input, public feedback, and public involvement. They conduct “listening tours” and stage “town hall meetings” and hold “public hearings.” But each of them has a fatal flaw: a miniscule, unrepresentative sample of citizens are heard from.
With tax advisory votes, every voter has a voice and every voter will be heard. It’s not a manipulated subset of the electorate that gets to speak, it’s everyone. That’s why politicians don’t like them.