I like to consider myself a conservative who lives within my means like many citizens on a fixed income.
Like many others, I do not want to pay additional taxes beyond what is necessary to provide adequate services to my community. At the same time, I understand the need to preserve and attempt to provide infrastructure for future generations — which sometimes causes me anguish and somewhat of a dilemma as a member of the City Council.
Raising property taxes and service fees also causes serious debate and deliberations when considering the need for maintaining existing services or when a portion of our community asks for additional funding for specific purposes.
It is this dilemma and concern to maintain services that has caused me to react in writing to Initiative 1033 that will be on the ballot this month.
Tim Eyman’s latest initiative, I-1033, threatens all city, county and state services that utilize property tax funding. General fund services provided by local jurisdictions are essential for quality of life.
Frankly, this initiative couldn’t come at a worse time because the base year will be a recessionary budget year.
I-1033 is based on an idea from Colorado called "TABOR," which caused so much damage to Colorado’s public schools, municipal roads and county highways and the economy that voters suspended it in 2005.
When Colorado voters passed TABOR, they were promised many of the same things we hear Eyman talk about today — but TABOR had unexpected and disastrous consequences.
Under TABOR, Colorado’s proportion of low-income children without health insurance doubled. Funding for education dropped to 49th in the nation. And things got so bad that the state actually had to suspend the requirement that students receive vaccinations before going to school because public health agencies couldn’t afford vaccines.
I-1033 places Walla Walla and every other city in our state under the exact same constraints, even though each jurisdiction has needs that are very different. Initiative 1033 will take away our local control and replace it with a flawed, one-size-fits-all formula.
Are Walla Walla’s needs the same as Seattle, Bellevue, Asotin or Leavenworth?
What does Initiative 1033 mean for the city of Walla Walla?
If I-1033 is successful, transfers from the city’s General Fund necessary to lower city property taxes have been estimated by staff, using assumptions put forward by the nonpartisan state Office of Financial Management, as follows:
- 2011 — $ 436,967
- 2012 — $ 549,484
- 2013 — $ 544,317
- 2014 — $ 663,191
- 2015 — $ 785,100
Already this year, the City of Walla Walla had to cut $145,000 from the Development Services Department. Now I-1033 threatens to reduce future funding for departments (library, parks and recreation, fire, police, development services and streets).
Because approximately one-half of the General Fund (actually 48.7 percent of the 2009-11 biennium budget) is dedicated to direct costs for public safety (i.e., fire and police), the resource reductions expected as a result of I-1033 cannot help but affect public safety in the long run.
Initiative 1033 would lock in these cuts using this year’s recession-level budget as the baseline and then apply a rigid and arbitrary formula based on population growth and inflation to decide how much could be spent in the future. The worst of times in Washington will become the best that we can do.
The Office of Financial Management released a study showing that I-1033 would reduce city and county revenues used for public safety, infrastructure and other needs in all Washington communities by $2.8 billion by 2015. The same study found that I-1033 would reduce state revenues that support education, health, environmental and other services by $5.9 billion by 2015.
We can’t let that happen in Washington state and especially in Walla Walla.
As we vote, we must not forget these initiative cuts will be felt right here in our community, within our local economy and by local citizens. General Fund money is used to fund emergency services (fire, police, subsidizes a portion of ambulance services), parks, streets and library.
Here in Washington, more than 180 businesses, environmental groups, health-care advocates and labor organizations have come together to oppose Eyman’s initiative.
No matter what Tim Eyman says, I-1033 will hurt other communities, and it will hurt Walla Walla. We will have even fewer resources to repair our roads. We will struggle to maintain our local parks. Our kids will sit in more crowded classrooms. Public safety will be negatively affected and our public health-care offerings will worsen.
Times are tough — but I-1033 will make them worse.
I urge my fellow citizens of Walla Walla to carefully consider the negative outcomes of Initiative 1033 and cast a vote against this initiative. I realize economic times are not good, but I-1033 is not the answer.