When I think of Initiative 1033, which will be on the Nov. 3 general election ballot, I think of the “Cash for Clunkers” program – except that I-1033 has very little to do with cash and a lot to do with clunkers.
We at the Renton Chamber of Commerce place a heavy emphasis on ensuring that tax policies at the federal, state, and local level are fair, but I-1033 goes way too far. In its zeal to establish a tax-reduction formula and promise easy cash back for voters, it instead will drop a bunch of clunkers on our local communities that will be disastrous for businesses, economic development, schools, local government and citizens as a whole.
Clunker No. 1: I-1033 would establish 2009 as a base revenue year for state and local governments and then limit revenue increases to population and growth factors. The problem is that 2009 is the most recession-wracked year we have seen in several decades, meaning the state and local jurisdictions will have to wait several years just to see revenues return to the point they were at before the economic downturn hit.
Clunker No. 2: I-1033 ends up punishing local jurisdictions such as Renton that have used economic growth strategies to keep taxes low and to invest in job-creating infrastructure. We have worked for years with the City of Renton on a strategy that involves keeping taxes low, using economic activity to fund key governmental services and putting incremental revenues into infrastructure investments that serve economic and job growth. The Landing is a shining example of that strategy. But that whole strategy is turned on its head by I-1033, which would require that all incremental revenues created by economic growth go not to local government and local infrastructure, but rather to a “lower property taxes” account.
Clunker No. 3: I-1033 promises to bring more budget cuts and upheaval to state and local governments that are already cutting services to stay afloat. In 2009, we saw state government make budget reductions that resulted in teacher layoffs, basic health plan reductions and further cutbacks in public health and human services. And we’ve seen cities and counties lay off employees, require furloughs and rein in basic services. Get ready for more education, health, and human services cuts if 1033 were to pass – the Office of Financial Management forecasts that it will result in $5.9 billion in reductions at the state level by 2015, and $2.1 billion for Renton and other cities across Washington.
We at the Chamber of Commerce have joined other Chambers of Commerce, the Washington Roundtable, Realtors, Master Builders, the Microsoft Corp., Renton and other cities, and scores of other organizations in strongly opposing I-1033. It’s a “clunker” program we cannot afford, and we urge you to vote “no” on it on Nov. 3.
Bill Taylor is president and CEO of the Renton Chamber of Commerce.