Read My Vote: No New Taxes

Dispatches from Seattle.
Dec. 16 1999 3:30 AM

Read My Vote: No New Taxes

Initiative 695 brings right-wing direct democracy to the Evergreen State.

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The inevitable legal challenges have arrived, but they're all piecemeal, failing to address sweeping constitutional questions. Given that the justices on Washington's Supreme Court are elected, legal pundits say it's more likely that the court will narrow I-695 than overturn it. Meanwhile, Locke has proposed spending about half the reserve fund to bail out local governments--perhaps because he doesn't want to be outflanked by the state auditor who has positioned himself as the Democrat who can make I-695 work (the auditor wants a financial review of all state programs). The Republicans, predictably, want to preserve the surplus, which they call the "rainy-day fund," by outsourcing government services and cutting budgetary "fat."

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The $1 billion cushion averts the apocalypse for now. But when the cushion is spent in a year or two, or when the next recession arrives, the disintermediating voters will find themselves playing the roles of budget analysts and tax wonks. What and who will they tax? Will they tax themselves to build highways and create new bus lines? Or will they stay the course and ask government to do more with less?

Instead of waiting for judgment day, watch-salesman Eyman is hastening it with "Son of 695." This tax-cutting initiative, which he is readying for the November 2000 election, will cap annual property-tax appraisals at 2 percent and exempt vehicles from the property tax (on the long shot that the government might start taxing cars as property). And in a final act of disintermediation, Son of 695 retaliates against all these mayors and council members who thought they got the drop on Eyman: It will roll back all taxes and fees increased since July 1999, when I-695 qualified for the ballot.

Rachel Zimmerman is the co-host of WBUR’s CommonHealth blog, and a former health care reporter at the Wall Street Journal.

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