PORT ANGELES — A staunch supporter of Initiative 1033 on November’s ballot says taxpayers should have more say on how government spends their money.
An opponent of Tim Eyman’s ballot measure says the loss of the rainy-day reserve would “kill local government” and force drastic cuts to government services.
“It allows government to grow but only at a rate that citizens control,” said Shelley Taylor, a tax-limit advocate, in a spirited debate at the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Monday.
Mike Chapman, a Clallam County commissioner from Port Angeles, said I-1033 is “patently unfair to those of us serving on the local level.
“It is my opinion that I-1033 will simply and irrefutably lead to decreased public services like law and justice, road maintenance and construction and public health,” Chapman told an audience of about 75 at the Port Angeles CrabHouse Restaurant in the Red Lion Hotel.
“It’s simply my opinion that 1033 will lead to increased local government debt.”
Revenue growth limit
Recent polls show the initiative is passing by about 60 percent.
The public will start voting after ballots in the all-mail election are mailed to voters starting Oct. 14. Deadline for voting is Nov. 3 at 8 p.m.
I-1033 would limit revenue growth of cities, counties and the state to the previous year’s revenue plus annual inflation and population growth.
Excess revenue collected by governments through state and federal grants would go back to the taxpayer through lower property taxes.
“Citizen-controlled growth allows refunding of excess tax revenue, after allocating to the rainy day fund, back to taxpayers by lowering property taxes for everyone,” said Taylor, a former TV actress and founder of Citizens for Predictable Property Tax Now.
“A majority of Americans now distrust the government more than ever. No wonder there’s a need for Tim Eyman. That’s what this Tea Party movement is all about. Listen to the voters.”
‘Basement in Mukilteo’
If it passes on Nov. 3, Chapman said I-1033 will eventually lead to higher property taxes and bigger government.
“We don’t need an initiative created out of a basement in Mukilteo telling us how to run our local government,” Chapman said.
“You know what we need? We need local elected officials who stand up and tell you exactly what they’re doing, stand for election and allow you to hold us accountable.”
Taylor said the state citizenry has tried for 16 years to get the legislators to control spending. She referenced four voter-approved initiatives that put limits on the government’s fiscal policies: Initiative 601 in 1993, I-695 in 1999, I-747 in 2001 and I-960 in 2007.
“What is wrong with these politicians?” Taylor asked. “How much plainer can the voters make their case?”
Clallam County, which had 422 full-time employees in 2001 and 406 in 2010, would stand to lose about 70 jobs if I-1033 passes, Chapman said.
“We may go to a four-day workweek,” he said.
The likely ramifications would be fewer sheriff’s deputies, fewer prosecutors, limited access to the courts, fewer health officials and seasonal park closures.
“There’s probably won’t be a road crew to plow roads Friday morning when kids are getting ready to go to school,” Chapman said.
In her opening remarks, Taylor said political maneuvering has allowed the state Legislature, in effect, to repeal voter-approved initiatives like I-601.
She said I-1033 allows the people, not the government, to decide how fast the government should grow and how big a tax burden we can afford.
“So here’s what we’re debating with 1033: How fast should the government grow, and who should decide?” Taylor said.
“Leaving things the way they are allows out-of-control spending to go unchecked and special interest groups to control our politicians and our lives.”
Chapman, a former Republican who is now an independent, voiced his own opinion before citing opposition to the initiative from the Washington State Labor Council, Washington State Association of Realtors and the state chapter of AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons
Chapman said the government bureaucrats who are often-denigrated, include the sheriff’s deputies who patrol your neighborhood, the firefighter who protects your house and the public health nurse giving flu inoculations.
“I’m trying to find these bureaucrats, in nine years of public service, and all I find are my friends, my neighbors, my fellow citizens serving this wonderful community to the best of their ability in an era of declining revenues,” Chapman said.
Clallam County had a $77.7 million budget in 2001, Chapman said. It has a projected 2010 budget of $77.7 million.
Chapman noted that the county and cities of Port Angeles, Sequim and Forks have not asked for a levy lid lift for property taxes since the passage of I-747.
“We’ve lived within our means,” he said.
“We’re just asking to allowed us to put money in the bank, live within our means, and not be dictated to by someone in Mukilteo.”
In her rebuttal, Taylor said I-1033 tells government to prioritize and to be cost-effective.
“If they want more, they have to just ask the people,” she said.
“The people are asking, yet again, ‘Politicians, will you listen now?”
“I listen every time I go to Costco, Safeway, Wal-Mart,” Chapman said.
“The beautiful thing with representing the North Olympic Peninsula is that you let us know when we messed up.”
When asked where the cuts should come from, Taylor said one place to look is education.
“I certainly believe that education is incredibly important, but 54 percent of our property taxes goes to it, and I’ve got statistics here that tell you what a dismal failure education is right now,” Taylor said.
“It doesn’t take more money. . . . It takes going back to basics. So with education, it’s reading, writing arithmetic.
“I don’t need to pay for kids to learn how to put a condom on a banana or any of these other things.”
Chapman, who has children in the Port Angeles School District, defended the public school system.
“We have the finest schools around, and my kids get a great education in this school district,” he said.
________Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.