"Given our experience in Colorado, passing [I-1033] in a recession would be a disaster." So says Carol Hedges of the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, in a conference call held by her org's counterpart, the Washington State Budget & Policy Center this afternoon. (Think tanks, unite!)
If you're not familiar, I-1033 (aka the "Washington Lower Property Taxes Initiative") is Tim Eyman's latest time bomb--which makes the voters MacGyvers, if the measure makes the ballot. (It'll be close.) For a good explanation of the measure, check out the lucid PowerPoint that the WSBPC released today. Basically, what I-1033 is doing is peeing in the punch bowl, or what preachers like to call "smiting."
It would cap local and state government budgets at their current, super-low, recession levels, and allow them to grow only with inflation and population increases. (Any money collected above that amount would go to property owners.) Needless to say, this would keep the budget below what's necessary to maintain current services and meet the needs of an aging population. Even worse, if there's another recession, the measure would lower the cap again. It's the worst of both worlds, or something like that. Colorado tried it with its "Taxpayer Bill of Rights," then backtracked when it saw what a mess the measure created.
According to the WSBPC's analysis, had I-1033 been put in place in 1995, our budget this year would be $6 billion lower than it is. ($6 billion, the PowerPoint notes, equals "the entire combined budget for higher education, natural resources, public health, early learning, corrections, and the Basic Health Plan.") For just a taste of what it might bring, note that--thanks to this year's budget cuts--today's the first day without coverage for 1,000 sick, elderly adults who get services like dialysis and physical therapy through the adult day health services program. Though maybe if we see an uptick next year, we'll have enough money to buy them cake.