In 2010, Washington State voters did two things they're going to regret all through the next year (and beyond).
1. By a 64-36 margin they passed Tim Eyman's Initiative 1053, which puts the state legislature in a fiscal vise by imposing an impossible two-thirds majority requirement for raising new revenue at a time when the state is facing a $4.6 billion budget shortfall. The result will be extreme cuts to basic state services, and a wide ripple effect that will be felt by many of the same people who, in voting for Eyman's 1053, thought they were protecting themselves from more Great Recession hurt. They weren't, and here's the problem with the idea that state government can simply cut its way out of a $4.6 billion hole: Our state's budget has already been slashed by more than $5 billion over the last five years, leaving few extraneous services to be cut. Which means that the same people who are channeling their financial hurt into demands that the government cease collecting any new revenue—full stop, without even allowing legislators to easily close tax loopholes for, say, big out of state banks—well, those same people, as already mentioned, will be among the first to be hurt by an all cuts budget that shreds the social safety net.
2. By the same margin, 64-36, those same Washington State voters defeated Bill Gates Sr.'s effort to begin fixing our state's dysfunctional and regressive tax structure through Initiative 1098, which would have imposed an income tax on Washington's wealthiest citizens—people making over $200,000 per year as individuals or over $400,000 per year as couples—in order to raise about $2 billion per year to help fund education and health care. Misled by income tax opponents, many voters who earn far less than $200,000 per year came to believe that this new income tax would apply to them, too. So they voted against it, doing nothing to change a tax structure that benefits the rich far more than themselves and assuring deep cuts to the very education and health care programs that make their lives easier.
As a result of these two votes, in 2011 Washington State will continue to look like this:
- With Initiative 1098's defeat, Washington will continue tax its poorest citizens at a higher rate than any other state in the nation.