On July 3, 2009, Tim Eyman, Leo Fagan and M.J. Fagan, who formed a group called Voters Want More Choices (VWMC), filed Initiative-1033. Although the Washington State Constitution only required 241,153 signatures, VWMC turned in the petition with over 314,000 signatures.
The official ballot for I-1033 reads, “This measure would limit growth of certain state, country and city revenue to annual inflation and population growth, not including voter-approved revenue increases. Revenue collected above the limit would reduce property tax levies.” Because of annual state growth limitations, state officials report that I-1033 is expected to reduce general fund revenues by approximately six billion dollars by 2015.
The general fund supports educational, health, environmental, social and general government services. Public safety and infrastructure support revenues will also be cut by an estimated 694 million dollars for counties and over two billion dollars for cities.
Since the initiative came forth, a vast number of organizations have come out in opposition of it, including AARP Washington, King County Democrats, Microsoft, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, The Nature Conservancy of Washington, Children’s Alliance, Disability Pride, Washington Student Association and many more.
These groups argue that there is a possibility that it will reduce critical public services at the state and local levels. They also feel that it is basically all about giving back money to property owners.
“It’s a property tax decreasing bill and so what this does, for example, for higher education, is that the state cut about 10 percent from the entire education budget from this last year and when the budget comes back, rather than being able to reinstate all 10 percent when state revenues pick up again, it limits them to only being able to inch back at that three percent growth rate, and for four year universities it’s a lot worse because they have a 17 percent cut, which will take about until 2019 to recoup,” said Mike Bogatay, the Executive Director of the Washington Student Association.
“This initiative is exact opposite of real reform. Instead of fixing what’s broken, it would make all of our lives worse. Much worse. We need real tax reform that improves stability and fairness in our tax system,” says the opposing side on the I-1033 website.
The website also goes on to argue that the result of current property taxes has been “particularly hard on local governments, who have limited ability to raise other taxes.”
The VWMC website argues, however, that in the state of Washington, property taxes are completely out-of-control, due to skyrocketing valuation increases, massive rate hikes and huge levy increases. “It’s obscene and unsustainable. Struggling working families and fixed-income senior citizens are being taxed out of their homes,” says their website.
A representative for VMWC was not available for comment.