Quite the knockdown drag-out in Washington Senate Ways and Means today: initiative organizer Tim Eyman and Senator Adam Kline, D-Seattle, blasting off at each other. And it wasn't personal: It was policy.
Eyman: "citizens are watching arrogant Democrats decide rules don't apply to them ... The taxpayers have to follow the law but this bill exempts you from it."
Kline: "I'd like you to talk about the other side ... the necessary expenditures that deal with people's lives that we don't have enough money to pay for."
Maybe most pertinent: "We have to deal with both sides of the equal sign."
(You can see the action via the TVW blog. Eyman comes on at about the 27-minute mark.)
Both, in fact, had a fact-based point to make. The object of the bill in question, Senate Bill 6843, calls for "Preserving essential public services by temporarily suspending the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases and permanently modifying provisions of Initiative Measure No. 960 for improved efficiency and consistency with state budgeting." It modifies 960 all right - pretty heavily, by eliminating the requirement of a two-thirds legislative approval for a tax increase (which would be effectively nearly impossible in the current climate) through 2011, returning to simple majority, and some other changes as well.
Eyman seems to be convinced enough it will pass to propose a new measure, I-1053, to counter the bill that hasn't even passed yet: "The 2/3's requirement is the only thing saving struggling taxpayers and our fragile economy from recession-extending, job-killing tax hikes from Gregoire and the Democrats who control Olympia. It has saved taxpayers BILLIONS OF DOLLARS over the past two years and we need to keep its protections in place. Their arrogant effort to take away Initiative 960's policies - which have been approved by the voters 3 times and which have survived 2 court challenges - is the reason the 14 of us are sponsoring I-1053, the "Save The 2/3's Vote For Tax Increases Initiative."
Kline's point seems worthwhile too, though, and to the extent that the public is going to become involved in directly setting fiscal policy for the state, maybe this ought to be a rule to adopt:
If you're going to call for changes in the tax laws, then you have to account - in the initiative - for the spending on the other end. If you're calling for a tax cut, and that tax cut will have the effect of lowering revenue by (whatever amount - say $200 million), then you have to say specifically what cuts will be made on the other end.
If you're going to ask the public to make legislative decisions, then they should have to behave like legislators - balancing both sides of the books.
Wonder what Eyman would think about that?