EFF supports state income tax!

Marsha Richards of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) was whining over on (un)Sound Politics recently about the Legislature failing to honor the will of the people.

It seems Senate budget-writers didn’t even attempt to follow the state’s voter-approved spending limit (I-601) this year. (Um. Surprise?)

This is a line of argument that the EFF has trod out relentlessly over the past few weeks, and to back up her point, Marsha cites the EFF (of course,) “here, here, here and here.”

I have often ridiculed Tim Eyman for honoring the will of the voters only when they agree with him, and apparently the EFF has the same cynical view of the initiative process. Indeed, their primary recommendation for balancing the budget while following the intent of “voter-approved I-601″ is to repeal voter approved I-728:

Rather than ignore the intent of the voter-approved I-601 spending limit, Democrats should instead balance the budget by:

1) Repealing Initiative 728. This “free” class-size reduction initiative passed by the voters in 2000 is currently diverting $809 million from the general fund to the student achievement account. This means, if repealed, an additional $809 million would be available for the 2005-07 budget.

The EFF has similar disdain for I-732, the initiative that automatically gives cost of living adjustments (COLAs) to teacher salaries… at least, that is what it would have done if, like I-728, it hadn’t been suspended to balance the last biennial budget.

Clearly, the EFF believes some voter-approved initiatives should be more inviolate than others. But their criteria for measuring the will of the people appears a bit backwards; examining the margins by which these initiatives passed, a pattern quickly emerges:

    Year   #       Yes Votes
    1993   I-601     774,342 (51%)
    2000   I-728   1,714,485 (72%)
    2000   I-732   1,501,261 (63%)

Hmmm… so let me get this straight… according to the EFF, I-728, which passed by a landslide margin of 72% as recently as 2000, should be sacrificed in the name of I-601, which received nearly a million less votes, barely squeaking by with a 51% margin all the way back in 1993? So logically, I can only assume that the EFF believes that the older the initiative, and the fewer votes it received, the more it represents the true will of the people.

By that measure, I fully expect the EFF to join me in demanding that the Legislature honor the clear and indisputable will of the people, by fully implementing voter-approved Initiative 69… which enacted an income tax way back in 1932.

Or is the EFF’s indefatigable support of I-601 based more on “the will of the EFF” than it is the will of the people?

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the initiative process, and nothing illustrates my skepticism better than the 2000 election, a year when voters approved huge tax cuts and huge spending increases… simultaneously. If voters expressed any “will” in that election, it was that a majority of us want something for nothing. But for the EFF to argue that a 12-year-old squeaker has greater claim to legitimacy than newer, far more popular initiatives, is a laughable exercise in political bullying.

The EFF makes great sport out of criticizing the Democrats’ budget and attacking them for “ignoring the intent of voter-approved spending limits,” but what they never bother to do is defend the initiative itself. In truth, I-601 was an ill-conceived, toothless bill, that tied budget growth to an unsustainable economic metric, while relying on a non-constitutional super-majority provision that could always be abrogated on a simple majority vote. The fact that nearly a decade and a half later, facing a whole new set of economic challenges, the Legislature is doing exactly that, should come as no surprise to anybody.

The EFF doesn’t defend the rationale for a spending limit that doesn’t keep pace with the demands of our growing economy, because it can’t. Instead it falls back on a bogus “will of the people” screed, rhetoric that is all the more unconvincing considering the fact that initiative profiteer Tim Eyman attempted to strengthen I-601’s provisions two-years ago, and couldn’t even drum up enough support to qualify his initiative for the ballot.

Will of the people, my ass.

Comments

  1. 1

    Erik spews:

    The EFF has similar disdain for I-732, the initiative that automatically gives cost of living adjustments (COLAs) to teacher salaries… at least, that is what it would have done if, like I-728, it hadn’t been suspended to balance the last biennial budget.

    Yes, and they also hate the minimum wage initiative which was passed by a significant margin in 1988 at a mugh higher rate that I-601. Oh well, don’t expect them to acknowledge this.

    This is a line of argument that the EFF has trod out relentlessly over the past few weeks, and to back up her point, Marsha cites the EFF (of course,) “here, here, here and here.”

    That one cracked me up. Acting like she is citing authoritative peer reseached studies, Marsha cites MarshaI, MarshaII, MarshaIII, and MarshaIV, or at least EFF(I-IV), as if this would bolster her arguments.

    How about the trapping ban initiative? I have not yet seen EFF rail against the legislature for passing laws changing this initiative.

    Oh well.

  2. 2

    spyder spews:

    Way back in the days when these ideas were first generated in CA by Howard Jarvis and a very young Grover Norquist, their goals were to defund state and local governments in hopes of promoting the deregulation of property in order to increase development and speculation. Thirty-five years later the attitudes of these people have not changed. They feel no need to be logical or rational or consistent in their arguments. As long as their objective is the elimination of governmental authority over property any behavior that works towards achieving that outcome is perfectly fine. Destroy schools, sure. Eliminate public services, sure. Restrict use of right of ways, no way. They want a security state that protects their property upon which they feel they deserve to be able to do whatever they want, even and especially when said activities create toxicity and damage downstream on other people’s properties.

  3. 3

    Marsha Richards spews:

    I’m afraid you miss a major point, Goldy. When voters passed I-728 and I-732, they did so with the clear understanding that neither measure would require higher taxes. This is what they read in the 2000 Voter’s Guide:

    I-728
    • “Without raising taxes, I-728 lets schools reduce class sizes, expand learning opportunities, increase teacher training, invest in early childhood education, and build classrooms for K-12 and higher education.”

    • “We can afford to invest in our schools and our future without raising taxes or taking money away from other programs. I-728 is funded by lottery proceeds, surplus state revenues and by returning a portion of state property taxes to local school districts.”

    • “I-728 is both necessary and fiscally sound. It invests surplus revenues in education without hurting the state budget.”

    • “I-728 does not raise taxes. I-728 maintains ample reserves and funding for other state services.”

    I-732
    • “With a $1.1 billion surplus, let’s use existing resources for more competitive salaries.”

    When out-of-control state spending and a refusal to prioritize devoured the surpluses, voters were presented with an option to raise taxes and fund 732 and 728 (Initiative 884). They said “no” by a margin of 61-39%. (You heard my presentation so you must know the measure wouldn’t have helped kids anyway.)

    Erik: This may seem odd to you, but I work with the Evergreen Freedom Foundation precisely because I want to spread our well-documented research and well-grounded ideas far and wide. I’m not the least ashamed to cite the good work of my colleagues.

  4. 4

    spews:

    The trapping initiative is a good example of bad initiative. But initiatives are typically done because of the inability of the legislature to actually do something about a real problem.

    I-601 forced the legislature to tighten its belt. Something it had been unwilling to do. Now they are forced to take a hard look at what they spend money on and how the revenue is obtained. Without being slapped in the face with such an initiative I feel the state would be in worse financial shape as opposed to better. Without that restraint the rate of growth in government would have been greater and we would have more of a problem meeting the budget in hard times.

    As far as a state income tax goes, I find it ironic that there is a strong push to do away with it on a federal level and a push to create it here.

    I could write volumes on why a state income tax is a really bad solution.

  5. 6

    spews:

    Marsha wrote: This may seem odd to you, but I work with the Evergreen Freedom Foundation precisely because I want to spread our well-documented research and well-grounded ideas far and wide. I’m not the least ashamed to cite the good work of my colleagues.

    Marsha, I know teachers that have recieved your organization’s crap in the mail, urging them to quit the WEA. Your mission is to eliminate the Washington Education Association and ultimately privatize education. That’s your “work”.

    And your defense of Goldy’s attack is fairly weak. We used to have enough money to fund state education…before Tim Eyman came along and the state hit a recession. Now, we don’t. Still, we owe it to our teachers and our students to enact I-728 and I-732.

  6. 8

    Marsha Richards spews:

    Mr. Incredible: Are you implying that allowing teachers to decide whether or not they want to be involved in the WEA would result in the union’s “elimination”? Because I think you’re probably right. And that doesn’t say much for the union, does it?

  7. 9

    Erik spews:

    I’m not the least ashamed to cite the good work of my colleagues.

    Ah. Yes, the work. I have read about it. But good?

    A Thurston County, Washington, judge imposed sanctions on the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) for its bad faith in using the judicial process for an improper purpose. The National Education Association (NEA) brought the motion against EFF after the organization obtained a default judgment against NEA, despite NEA’s active participation in defense of an EFF lawsuit. The default judgment was overturned in mid-July and the lawsuit dismissed in August.

  8. 10

    Jason spews:

    Thank you for posting to our article. I did notice an important element missing however. This may help give greater context to our I-728 recommendation:

    http://www.effwa.org/press_releases/2005_03_28.php

    Voters were promised by former Governor Gary Locke that I-728 would not raise taxes or take money away from other programs. Last year voters defeated I-884 (which would have raised taxes to fully fund I-728, among other programs) by a nearly 2-1 margin. Former Governor Locke’s priorities of government (POG) work teams recommended that Locke not fund I-728 in his 2003-05 budget.

    2) Identifying a tax source for I-728 and referring it back to a vote of the people. The governor should meet with Washington Education Association (WEA) president Charles Hasse and allow the WEA to choose the tax source to fund the FULL cost of I-728. The measure should then be referred back to a vote of the people with the accompanying tax source. This would honor the will of the voters who initially approved I-728 (when it was “free”), but then chose not to fund it by defeating I-884. It would also allow the WEA to ensure that the tax source chosen is the most acceptable one it can identify. Voters will once again be able to state whether or not class-size reduction is a priority for which they are willing to pay more in taxes.

    The full voter’s guide statements on I-728 can be found here:
    http://www.secstate.wa.gov/ele.....ments.aspx

    For additional budget savings, please see: http://www.effwa.org/inbriefs/v15n1.php

    Thanks again!

  9. 11

    steven spews:

    Marsha~

    So you get rid of the WEA–then what? EFF has no solution to fix the problems of the school systems. For years, it was charter schools. But now that studies of effectiveness are coming out, guess what–charter schools show no real improvement.
    See http://nces.ed.gov/nationsrepo.....005456.asp

    and

    http://www.boston.com/news/glo.....ed_waters/

    You’re going to tell me about the Manhattan Institute study and the Heritage Foundation study. Fine, they show a very slight positive to charter schools, but I’m not sure why I should trust those studies more than the study done by the Education Department under a Republican administration. For chrissakes, if the Bushies know nothing else, they know how to cook the books.

    You may be right that more money won’t fix the schools. But less money isn’t going to fix the problem either. If you really care about improving the quality of education (which I suspect you don’t), your time and energy would be much better spent in encouraging the involvement of parents in their children’s education, both in school and out.

  10. 12

    Erik spews:

    So you get rid of the WEA�then what?

    That’s enough right there. The WEA is one of the opponents in the right to work crusade as well as the efforts to privatize schools.

    But now that studies of effectiveness are coming out, guess what�charter schools show no real improvement.

    Maybe, but that matters little to them.

    The conservative Christians want religious schools where the government provides funding through vouchers.

    In their eyes, there will be a great improvement if evolution is eliminated and replaced with mandatory prayer.

    I don’t think they are worried about the acedemic angle too much although its very easy to show improvement when one gets to cherry pick students out.

  11. 13

    Goldy spews:

    Marsha @3,

    Thanks for contributing to the debate here.

    I believe your arguments lack nuance. First, you assume that most voters actually read the voter’s guide, and carefully think through the consequences of the initiatives. Not everybody does. Instead, I think many people vote based on platitudes… the ballot title, campaign slogans, and maybe a TV ad.

    Second, you seem to assume that those of us who do read the voters guide, actually believe what we read in it. I fully understood that both I-728 and I-732 would eventually require new revenues… and I voted for them regardless, because I want smaller classes and better teachers.

    Third… even I was opposed to making our tax structure even more regressive by raising the sales tax penny… although I reluctantly voted for I-884 anyway, because I knew that people like you would spin its rejection as evidence that voters don’t want to spend more money on education. (I learned from voting no on R-51 that liberals like me simply don’t have the luxury of making principled stands when it comes to ballot measures.)

    So your assumptions about voter intent are just that.

    But let’s talk about I-601 for a moment. Even if voters read the guide back in 1993… and even if they understood the difference between pegging the spending limit to population plus inflation versus growth in personal income… and even if they understood that you can’t effectively legislate a super majority requirement without a constitutional amendment… there is still nothing sacred about a 12-year-old initiative that barely passed with 51% of the vote in a light turnout year. The legislature not only has the right to amend or discard I-601, it has a responsibility to do so, if that is what it determines is best for the citizens of this state, at this time. That’s the Legislature’s job.

    As you know, we live in a democratic republic, not a direct democracy, and I’m sure that if Republicans held solid majorities in both houses the EFF would be more than happy to legislate their agenda that way, as opposed to relying on the initiative process. I-601 is just another law, regardless of Jason Mercier’s flowery prose in praise of Art. I, Sect. 1.

  12. 14

    Marsha Richards spews:

    Steven: I wonder if you would mind reading my ideas on education reform before you decide what you “suspect” about my motives. Our dialogue would be more meaningful.

    I completely agree that parents need to be more involved in the education of their children. What do you think of allowing them to choose where and how their children are educated, for starters?

    Washington spends $9,688 per student per year on its K-12 public schools. Why not let parents decide what kind of education to buy for their child with that money? They could choose their local public school, a private school, homeschool, distance-learning, etc. The options are limitless.

  13. 15

    Erik spews:

    They could choose their local public school, a private school, homeschool, distance-learning, etc. The options are limitless.

    In other words. Private Religious Schools right?

    If you believe it, why not simply say it?

    Of course, you would have to eliminate the Washington Education Association first right?

  14. 16

    Marsha Richards spews:

    Erik: Why not let parents choose private religious schools if that’s what they think is best for their children? And parents who prefer secular schools could choose secular schools. I don’t understand your opposition.

  15. 17

    steven spews:

    I believe in public schools. The universal access to education provided by the public school system is one of the things that has made this country successful. I believe this system benefits all residents of the US, whether they take advantage of the system for their own children or not, and that therefore the system should be funded by taxpayers. If people want to send their children to private schools, religious schools, correspondence schools or home schools, that’s fine with me. I just don’t think society in the form of the government should pay for that.

  16. 18

    spews:

    Well said, Steven, well said! I could not have put it any better. Free public education is one of the most important things in this country. Public money should fund public schools ONLY. Our public school system could be greatly improved if we properly funded it and provided for smaller class sizes with better teacher pay.

  17. 19

    zip spews:

    Mr. Incredibele

    Are you certain that “Our public school system could be greatly improved if we properly funded it and provided for smaller class sizes with better teacher pay”? Do you have any maximum dollar amount in mind that will accomplish this “Great Improvement” so we taxpayers will know what the limit is? Part of the problem here is that most public funding, including school funding, is never enough for the Democrats that run this state. We keep getting hit up for more, and we never see any improvement from what we’re already throwing in.

    I-728 and 732 were classic examples of what happens when the voters are hoodwinked by arguments such as yours. Look at post 3 for the campaign promises. Those initiatives were supposed to deliver your Great Improvements without raising taxes!

    Let’s see the WEA support some efficiency improvements first and then ask for money second some day. They could start by teaching our kids in school five days a week.

    And another thing, this mantra that teachers are underpaid is a load of crap. They work how many days per year? Many working people would love to have the annual work calendar that teachers enjoy. That calendar is a trade off for the salary.

  18. 20

    Ivan spews:

    Marsha @ 14:

    Can you deny that the voters sent a message, loud and clear, in the 2004 election, that they did not want their tax money going to fund charter schools?

    People who want to send their children to private or religious schools already have that option. They already have that choice. You and the Scaife-funded EFF just want to raid the treasury, rob tax dollars from public schools, and weaken public education in this state.

    The voters have spoken, Marsha. We have rejected your view of education, more than once, and we will do it again. You will not make Washington into Mississippi.

  19. 22

    Erik spews:

    In other words. Private Religious Schools right?

    Why not let parents choose private religious schools if that’s what they think is best for their children?

    I appreciate the forthright statement. At least now we know what’s at stake and a bit of insight into what the difference of opinion is, the goals of the EFF, and your continual efforts to vilify Washington teachers and the Washington public school system.

    I think church and religious schools are great.

    However, they should not be subsidized by the government. Both the US and State constitution have prohibitions against the governmental support of one particular religion.

    Most people in Washington want their children to go to school to learn and not to be indoctrinated by the latest dominate religion. If we lived in Utah, that would be Mormanism by the way.

  20. 23

    Erik spews:

    Marsha is starting to share some of her goals with the EFF with us though she’s still holding back what her long terms goals are.

    Lets look at the Washington State Republican presidential nominee from 1988 has to say about it:

    “The public education movement has also been an anti-Christian movement…We can change education in America if you put Christian principles in and Christian pedagogy in. In three years, you would totally revolutionize education in America.” –Pat Robertson,”The 700 Club,” September 27, 1993.

    Robertson isn’t that extreme for the Washington right, he actually beat out George Bush in Washington here in 1988, the only state in the union to give him all of the electorial votes.

    Here’s another winner from him on schools:

    “We’re going to bring back God and the Bible and drive the gods of secular humanism right out of the public schools of America.” –Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan addressing the anti-gay rally in Des Moines, 2-11-96

    The the religious right in Washington, its not enough to go to church, live a religious life and help others like the rest of us. They feel the need to make everyone join their group and force their beliefs on others.

    There’s just a few things standing in the way of Marsha and her right wing groups from obtaining their religious fantasies:

    1) The Washington state and federal constitutions

    2) The Washington electorate;

    and of course, before she can get to these, she needs to defund, vilify, marginalize and negate the Washington Educational Association.

  21. 24

    Chuck spews:

    God man. Goldy is slipping on the pope…pull the tube he is comatose…..that is your theory of life.

  22. 26

    prr spews:

    Ivan @ 20

    Here is the problem with your last response. You are in washington state where the will of the people is a punchline. Ultimately it comes down to what Olympia wants.

    Personally, I don’t want my kids being taught in the second rate public schools. However, if my taxes are going to support education, I’d like the ability to choose where those monies go.

  23. 27

    spews:

    Comment by Goldy — 3/31/05 @ 4:30 pm

    Now I know. Don’t trust the voting guide, trust the a**.

    Nah, “Mushra”, Marsha, Martian, EFF Hottie, WHATEVER!!! – I trust this chap a bit more. The voter’s guide IS the voter’s guide.

    The wink and nod approach doesn’t apply for me – straight talk, please.

  24. 28

    Ivan spews:

    prr @ 26:

    Was there or was there not a straight up-and-down vote — by the voters of this state — on charter schools in the last election?

    Are you denying that such a vote took place? Or don’t the facts matter to you? The voters say you don’t get that choice. Live with it.