In the same rhetorical breath that he announced his failure to qualify I-864 for the November ballot, Tim Eyman promised to come back next year with an even more severe property tax cut proposal. I assume his intention is to tighten the language so that it also impacts districts with levy lid lifts in effect. But I suppose he might even increase the size of the cut, following the pattern he set when I-722 morphed into I-747.
Would Tim be so boldly stupid as to propose a 50% property tax cut?
Probably not. But a 25% property tax cut is stupid enough, as is illustrated by the examples set forth today in the Olympian: “Our Views: Yelm, fire district work for resolution.”
The editorial points out the adverse impact on Yelm residents when Fire District 2 moved its full-time crew from within city limits to a location nearer the center of the district. Before the move, the average response time for Yelm (which accounts for 40 percent of the district’s emergency calls) was 5.8 minutes. It now takes an average of nine minutes to respond to call.
Response times are critical. Every minute counts when a fire ignites. Adding more than three minutes to the average fire call in Yelm is putting lives and property at greater risk.
The editorial lauds Yelm and fire district officials for working to find a resolution — a resolution that will almost surely require more funding. But this would have been impossible if I-864 had cut an additional 25% from the fire district’s budget.
Fire districts rely on local property taxes for 95% of their funding; as much as 90% of their general fund is spent on the salaries of firefighters and paramedics. Next year Tim will ask voters to cut fire service by at least 25%, and require a 60% supermajority for any future increases.
I understand if voters are angry and frustrated, particularly those from middle- and low-income households who have seen their tax burden rise, even as average state and local tax burden has fallen. (Do the math: that means businesses and the wealthy are paying less.)
But voters need to understand that when they vote to decrease local property taxes they are voting to decrease local services… essential services like firefighting and paramedics. It is not an exaggeration to say that in saving tax dollars, I-864 would surely have cost lives.
My hope is that Tim’s failure to generate sufficient support for I-864 is an indication that voters are starting to understand this equation.