WALLA WALLA -- Our state is at a critical juncture in its recovery from this devastating recession.
Businesses in our community are struggling to keep their doors open. Families are cutting their budgets and doing their best with what they have available. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for state government, and that is the reason we need Initiative 1053.
I-1053 is simple. It requires a two-thirds majority vote of lawmakers to raise taxes or statewide voter approval. And if it sounds vaguely familiar, it's because voters in our state have previously approved a two-thirds requirement three times.
This changed again in January when lawmakers made change to Initiative 960. Faced with a $2.6 billion budget deficit, Democratic lawmakers knew they had to make tough choices headed into an election year. But rather than taking the tough votes and doing the hard work of restructuring government, lawmakers voted to overturn the two-thirds rule and stitched together a patchwork of nearly $800 million in new taxes.
Perhaps more troubling: In the end, there was no government reform. Instead, families and businesses were handed one of the largest tax increases in state history during one of the worst economic downturns on record. What's more, because they punted on the spending problem, we're now staring into another $4.5 billion budget hole.
We need I-1053 to get back on track and move Washington state forward. Voters want to know their tax dollars are being allocated based on priority needs, just as they've had to at home and at work.
I-1053 would put taxpayers back in charge and force lawmakers to make a compelling case before approving any increases. Unfortunately, lawmakers continue to nibble at the edge of real reforms. Without I-1053, they won't feel the pressure to retrench, retool and reset state government.
Washington state is out of excuses. Our reserves have all been raided. And our jobless rate continues to climb, too. Washington state lost nearly 16,000 jobs this past year; only eight states fared worse. Our citizens can't afford more taxes for endless state programs, and the employers who want to create new jobs can't afford more taxes either.
Competitiveness is a major issue for all businesses in Washington, and allowing our lawmakers the latitude to reduce our competitiveness through an income tax will reduce the number of jobs that we add in the private sector. Key Technology faces many challenges and threats because we are a company that competes globally.
We strongly support I-1053 because we want to remain competitive and to be able to continue to grow. Our elected officials have not demonstrated the necessary discipline to keep our Washington state competitiveness, and we must pass I-1053, or we will most likely lose jobs and businesses to more competitive environments.
I-1053 has statewide support of thousands of small and large employers and the associations who represent them, including the Washington Farm Bureau, Washington Retail Association, Association of Washington Business and National Federation of Independent Businesses.
These organizations represent tens of thousands of jobs in our state. They are doing everything they can to preserve and create jobs in a very tough economic environment.
It's time to make tax increases a last resort instead of an easy out for overspending. Send lawmakers a message this fall: Vote yes on I-1053. Require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or a vote of the people before lawmakers can raise your taxes, again.
David Camp is president and CEO of Key Technology, which is based in Walla Walla.