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?)
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 This means, if repealed, an additional $809 million would be available for the 2005-07 budget.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.