NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Initiative 1185: An attack on democracy

Pro­po­nents of I‑1185, includ­ing its pri­ma­ry spon­sor Tim Eyman, would have vot­ers believe the issue this ini­tia­tive would address is tax­es. In fact, the issue is democ­ra­cy — specif­i­cal­ly, an attack on democ­ra­cy and major­i­ty rule, fund­ed by pow­er­ful cor­po­ra­tions and pro­mot­ed by the far right.

Since Cal­i­for­nia approved Propo­si­tion 13 in 1978, cre­at­ing a require­ment that two-thirds of leg­is­la­tors must vote to approve any tax increase, con­ser­v­a­tives across Amer­i­ca have embraced the idea that super­ma­jori­ties must approve any tax increase. Their rea­sons are sim­ple: Super­ma­jor­i­ty schemes like the one I‑1185 tries to reim­pose cre­ate give con­ser­v­a­tives veto pow­er over key fis­cal deci­sions.

Con­sid­er Cal­i­for­ni­a’s exam­ple. Democ­rats have had the major­i­ty in the state leg­is­la­ture since 1970 (aside from a two year peri­od in the mid-1990s when Repub­li­cans had a one-seat advan­tage in the State Assem­bly).

The Repub­li­can Par­ty in Cal­i­for­nia is slow­ly but sure­ly with­er­ing, unable to elect statewide can­di­dates and with no hope of reclaim­ing the Leg­is­la­ture. But as con­ser­v­a­tives usu­al­ly make up about a third of the over­all elec­torate, and are increas­ing­ly con­cen­trat­ed in spe­cif­ic geo­graph­ic areas, they are usu­al­ly able to elect at least a third of the seats in each house of the leg­is­la­ture. Two-thirds schemes give them a veto they would oth­er­wise not have earned at the bal­lot box.

The result is inher­ent­ly unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic. Vot­ers in Cal­i­for­nia have repeat­ed­ly elect­ed Democ­rats to majori­ties in the leg­is­la­ture, but that major­i­ty can­not gov­ern or imple­ment its agen­da. A sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion is emerg­ing in Wash­ing­ton, where Repub­li­cans are also fac­ing a long-term polit­i­cal decline. They haven’t held a major­i­ty in either cham­ber for years. They’re not expect­ed to retake the Sen­ate this year, and the House looks increas­ing­ly out of reach.

Rather than address this long-term decline and try to win a legit­i­mate gov­ern­ing major­i­ty at the bal­lot box, Wash­ing­ton’s con­ser­v­a­tives have instead begun try­ing to change the rules and under­cut our Con­sti­tu­tion.

I‑1185 is mere­ly the lat­est effort to give con­ser­v­a­tives veto pow­er over the state’s fis­cal deci­sions, pow­er they haven’t earned.

The result is that the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton lose pow­er to address the prob­lems fac­ing the state. Par­tic­u­lar­ly when it comes to edu­ca­tion and trans­porta­tion, more fund­ing to expand ser­vices and infra­struc­ture is des­per­ate­ly need­ed.

But with a two-thirds rule in place, the Leg­is­la­ture is unable to address that issue unless con­ser­v­a­tives agree — and as we know, they won’t give their con­sent to any new fund­ing. They’re even opposed to recov­er­ing rev­enue for our state by repeal­ing out­dat­ed tax exemp­tions that have been sit­ting on the books for years.

The inher­ent­ly unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic nature of I‑1185 is exac­er­bat­ed by the fact that it is on the bal­lot only thanks to some of the nation’s wealth­i­est busi­ness­es. Oil com­pa­nies and the beer lob­by are among the largest con­trib­u­tors to the cam­paign in sup­port of I‑1185, as they were two years ago for I‑1053, which was declared uncon­sti­tu­tion­al in May by King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court Judge Bruce Heller. (The Supreme Court is cur­rent­ly weigh­ing an appeal).

These com­pa­nies would face high­er tax­es under a demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­isla­tive process that reflect­ed the will of the peo­ple. But rather than sub­mit to democ­ra­cy, these com­pa­nies have decid­ed to elim­i­nate it when it comes to rais­ing rev­enue — one of the most impor­tant deci­sions the peo­ple’s elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives have to make. Their friends on the right, includ­ing the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty, are more than hap­py to assist, since they share this hos­til­i­ty to democ­ra­cy.

Most Wash­ing­to­ni­ans are of an open mind when it comes to tax­es. They make their deci­sions based on whether they agree with the pur­pose of a tax, on the nature of what will be taxed, and whether they believe the process of tax­a­tion is fair. If they want to elect a leg­is­la­ture that would raise tax­es in order to ensure chil­dren are giv­en a good edu­ca­tion and that peo­ple can get around the state afford­ably and sus­tain­ably, that should be their right. I‑1185 takes away those rights and hands the pow­er over those deci­sions to a small polit­i­cal fringe and their wealthy back­ers.

The choice fac­ing vot­ers this fall isn’t about tax­es. It’s about democ­ra­cy. More and more orga­ni­za­tions across the state are com­ing to under­stand this choice, as they increas­ing­ly line up against I‑1185. We still don’t yet know how the Leg­is­la­ture will solve our many press­ing prob­lems — the days of back­fill­ing to keep impor­tant ser­vices going for anoth­er year or two are over.

By stop­ping I‑1185, we can at least give our elect­ed lead­ers a fair shot at solv­ing those prob­lems demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly.

Vote NO on I‑1185.

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One Comment

  1. I will keep this short, and sweet. You talk about I‑1185 being unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic?? this seems fun­ny because aren’t the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton State vot­ing on it? On anoth­er quick note… Check out the Debt Clock for Wa. State (OUCH)..Maybe cut some pork off a already swollen state gov­ern­ment? Oh & by the way Cal­i­for­nia is for all intense pur­pos­es Bank­rupt? I would nev­er use them as an exam­ple in any finan­cial terms, and I would not brag that Democ­rats are in pow­er & have been in pow­er right along as the state goes bel­ly-up!!

    # by Alan Kollmar :: October 18th, 2012 at 7:29 PM