The Argument Against Permanent Recession-Level Spending

“It’s a proven failure,” according to one out-of-city critic.

While Tim Eyman was recently busy losing a lawsuit against the state—whose budget office he thought was misinterpreting his latest initiative—Colorado resident Carol Hedges was visiting to tell Washingtonians not to vote for his latest initiative.

That initiative, I-1033, would basically freeze state government spending at recession levels (allowing for small growth for population and inflation), and then lower it again every time another recession hits. Eyman likes to say that it’ll get rid of the roller-coaster effect, while critics counter that it’ll just get rid of the parts where the car goes up. Thus the state would never be able to recover all the programs it cuts.

Colorado is the only state to have passed such a regulation, though voters ended up revoking large parts of it via subsequent measures after they saw the consequences, such as huge reductions in school funding. Since then, Hedges, who works for the Colorado Policy Institute, a sister organization of Washington State Budget & Policy Center, has traveled the country to fight similar proposals. “It’s a proven failure,” she says of such measures. “And the timing for Washington is terrible. In Colorado, we went from lean to anorexic; you’re starting at the anorexic level.”

She backs up her claims in a paper co-written with the WSBPC, which shows the anticipated effects on the state, from slowed economic growth to crumbling infrastructure to dwindling funds for health care. “In Colorado, we have a lot of things we think are eminently exportable,” she said, “but [this initative] isn’t one of them.” What is, then? “I recommend Crocs,” says Hedges of the bright-colored plastic clogs that originate in the Centennial State, “and Enstrom’s Toffee as well.”

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