Yeah, see, the thing about today’s front page Seattle Times article on I-1033 — “Tax limit complex; impact unclear” — is that it isn’t, and any fair and balanced effort to impartially explain the initiative to voters only does readers a disservice.
I mean, honestly, on one side you have a broad coalition of labor and business, backed up both by the expertise of the state Office of Financial Management and the real world experience of Colorado’s disastrous TABOR experiment, and on the other side you have, you know, Tim Eyman. Yet in the typical J-School fashion, the Times’ Andrew Garber labors to present both sides equally.
To what end?
The truth is, both the intent and the impact of I-1033 is painfully clear: it will make state and local governments smaller, both as a percentage of the total economy, and in their ability to provide services and build and maintain public infrastructure. I-1033 pegs revenue growth to population plus inflation, yet it is an indisputable fact that the cost of providing government services increases at a substantially higher rate than inflation as a whole. (As I’ve repeatedly explained, it’s all gotta do with the nature of productivity.) Therefore, under I-1033, government revenue would increase slower than its costs. That is a fact. It’s simple math. And there’s nothing unclear about it.
Neither is there anything unclear about Eyman’s intentions. He wants to shrink government… you know… to the size where he can drown it in a bath tub. He’s WA’s Grover Norquist, only taller, and not nearly as smart. (And Norquist, to his credit, is at least manly enough to look me in the eye.)
He’s also an admitted liar, barred by court order from ever serving as campaign treasurer due to his inability to keep his campaign funds separate from his personal accounts. So why the hell is Eyman given equal weight as, and considerably more ink than, say, OFM, in explaining how I-1033 works? For example, in dismissing the argument that I-1033 would hurt schools, Eyman disingenuously claims that, unlike Colorado’s law, his measure doesn’t touch schools at all… rhetorical bullshit that Garber dutifully echoes:
However, there are key differences between the two measures. Colorado’s applied to all governments including school and fire-protection districts. Eyman’s affects only city, county and state government.
Uh-huh. But see, the thing is, about three-quarters of K-12 funding comes from the state, an expense that accounts for the largest chunk of the state budget, so to suggest that limiting state revenues won’t limit education spending is patently ridiculous. Furthermore, local school levies are capped by law at no more than 24% of state and federal funding (up to 33% in a handful of districts), so as state education spending declines (inflation-adjusted or otherwise) so will the amount local school districts are allowed to raise via local levies. Again, it’s simple math: if school levies are capped at a percentage of state funding, and I-1033 limits state revenue, then I-1033 imposes revenue limits on local school districts.
So yeah, Garber is technically accurate in stating that I-1033 excludes local school districts, but by failing to put the very real (and mathematically indisputable) impact of the measure in its broader context, he only ends up misinforming voters. There will be voters who cast their ballot in favor of I-1033, wrongly (if honestly) believing that it will not impact their local schools, and some of these voters will undoubtably believe this thanks to Garber’s impartial reporting.
I’m not implying ill intent on the part of Garber or the Times, or any sort of ethical or professional lapse. But this is clearly one of those times when their devotion to the traditional journalistic paradigm allows the facts to obscure the truth, and ultimately, only serves to mislead the public.