On behalf of the 10,700 members of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) in the state of Washington, I urge you to oppose SB 6078 or any other effort to weaken citizen-enacted limits on the Legislature's ability to raise taxes. Voters passed Initiative 601 back in 1993 in order to protect themselves from legislators of both parties who -- once they settle into their offices in Olympia -- choose to ignore the citizenry's opposition to higher taxes.
Initiative 601 simply limits the annual growth in state general fund spending to the average rate of increase in the state population and inflation as measured during the past three years and requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to pass new taxes. These are hardly radical limits on state spending and, to the chagrin of Washington taxpayers who enacted them, the state's overall tax burden remains heavy (according to the Tax Foundation, Washington has the 7th-heaviest in the nation).
Unfortunately, if the Senate has its way and the House goes along with SB 6078, politicians would be allowed to dig even deeper into taxpayers' pockets. Under the Senate's plan, state spending would grow about 1 percent faster than it can now. According to Senator Joseph Zarelli, the Ranking Member of the Budget Committee, absent the spending limits contained in Initiative 601, the state's two-year budget would be $27.7 billion instead of the current $23.2 billion (a 20 percent difference).
Regardless of whether a state's tax burden is heavy or light, it is unacceptable for elected officials at any level of government to undermine the clearly expressed wishes of their constituents. Voters in Washington and throughout the nation clearly want strict limits on the ability of their elected officials to raise taxes and spend their money. If the Legislature chooses to ignore the will of the voters this time around, there is no doubt they will utilize the initiative process to propose stronger limits in the near future.
NTU and our members urge you to preserve Initiative 601 and show respect for the will of the people by voting "no" on SB 6078.
Paul J. Gessing
Director of Government Affairs