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EDITORIAL: A scarlet tax letter

How Washington state can shame politicians of the splurge

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Not everything that comes out of the deep-blue left coast is bad. A state that gave Barack Obama a 15-point margin should expect taxes to go up because Big Government liberalism is all about "soaking the rich" and redistributing the result. With a liberal Democratic governor and a Legislature clinging to the coastline with nowhere farther left to go, the state of Washington would be saddled with the highest taxes in the land but for a device that sometimes saves the voters from the consequences of their rash decisions.

Anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman has been using the ballot box to protect the pocketbooks of Washingtonians since 1995. He and Voters Want More Choices, his organization, won the support of 64 percent of voters last November with a proposition preventing the Legislature from raising taxes and fees with less than a bipartisan, two-thirds majority. This was the fourth time voters have approved this particular requirement.

Under the state's quirky initiative procedure, the Legislature is bound to abide by the will of the people only for two years; then the ballot proposition can be undone. Collecting 330,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot every other year is expensive and tiring. In February, the state Supreme Court declared that the public could only impose a supermajority requirement with a constitutional amendment.

Mr. Eyman wants that amendment, but only the Legislature — not the public — has the power to propose it. So Mr. Eyman intends to hold the politicians' feet to the fire unless they do what the public demands.

A new initiative would require the voter guide for the next general election to show a picture of each state representative, senator and governor along with a 10-year tally of the cost for each tax increase that particular lawmaker approved. These facts would appear on voter pamphlets until the public gets an opportunity to vote on the supermajority constitutional amendment.

It's an extension of a clever idea Mr. Eyman got enacted with a 2007 initiative. The state government now sends an alert whenever either the state House or Senate votes to raise taxes. The notice includes a year-by-year analysis of the impact on Washington wallets, along with a list of the legislators supporting the idea. An email sent last week, for example, said legislation creating "an education legacy trust account for K-12 basic education" would cost the state $5.3 billion. It passed the state house on a party-line, Democratic vote.

That email only goes to those who sign up to receive it. The voters' guide reaches a far wider audience and would act as a scarlet letter for politicians who can't resist the urge to raise taxes. Whether the Legislature relents and allows a constitutional amendment, Mr. Eyman's latest initiative would be a needed step forward for accountability.

The Washington Times

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