Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Announcing the Commonwealth Protection Act: An unorthodox initiative for tough times

Early this morning, I made the trek to our state capital in Olympia to file — in person! — my first initiative to the people of the State of Washington.

The measure doesn't have an official number or ballot title yet (those are forthcoming), but it does have a name: the Commonwealth Protection Act.

With help from the folks I'm privileged to work with here at NPI, I devised the measure to alleviate the harm caused to our state's treasury by the passage of Tim Eyman and BP's Initiative 1053 last November.

As readers of The Advocate are undoubtedly well aware, Initiative 1053 undemocratically and unconstitutionally requires a two-thirds vote to raise any new revenue (excluding fees). Initiative 1053's language has been interpreted to mean that the removal of any tax exemption is a revenue increase.

This effectively makes it impossible for the Legislature to responsibly balance the budget, because seventeen right-wing senators (including three of Initiative 1053's cosponsors) can prevent the Democratic majority from democratically acting to repeal outdated tax loopholes and giveaways.

The Commonwealth Protection Act solves this problem by explicitly redefining the "raises taxes" definition in 1053 to clarify that repealing any kind of tax preference is a restoration of lost revenue — not a tax increase.

This would permit the Legislature to offset the next round of budget cuts by repealing some of the most egregious tax breaks on our books — beginning in 2012, if this initiative somehow gets on the ballot and is approved by the people of this great state.

The Commonwealth Protection Act also extends the "logic" of Initiative 1053 by requiring a two-thirds vote to create new tax preferences. This would permit seventeen progressive senators to hold up future tax loopholes and giveaways desired by corporate lobbyists.

I'm personally of the opinion that this provision is just as unconstitutional as similar requirements in I-960 and I-1053, which we fiercely campaigned against.

However, voters approved those measures, and the state Supreme Court has, to date, refused every opportunity it has been given to do its job and nullify the offending language, which clearly violates Article II, Section 22.

I would like nothing better for the Court to change its mind and take up this matter, striking down any and all provisions present in the Revised Code of Washington which unconstitutionally abridge majority rule.

Until then, however, we need some balance. It makes no sense that a two-thirds vote is required to get rid of a tax preference, but a majority vote remains sufficient to create one. Let's be consistent and require an undemocratic supermajority in both instances. That will hopefully help ensure that any new tax preferences which are created are in the public interest.

That's the extent of the Commonwealth Protection Act. To recap, it is a single-subject measure which does two important things. It makes it harder to create new tax preferences, and it changes the definition of "raises taxes" to specify that repealing a tax preference is not considered a tax increase.

Although my name is on this initiative, I had a lot of help putting it together. I want to thank my staff and fellow boardmembers for their invaluable advice and assistance putting this together.

We at NPI consider this incarnation to simply be an initial draft or a first stab, and we're looking forward to making it better with your input.


Post a Comment

<< Home