State Representative Mary Lou Dickerson has written a timely and eloquent post on the Slog: I am Angry. She says that the state budget cuts will make life miserable for many vulnerable people. She describes how the voters repeatedly vote for costly initiatives (for example, to decrease class sizes and raise teacher salaries) but then they turn around and vote for Tim Eyman’s anti-tax initiatives that slash revenue.
I want to draw attention to three things Rep. Dickerson says.
First: “if the legislature asks voters to cut specific tax breaks, we know that corporations that stand to lose tax breaks will fight like crazy to get the public to vote their way. ” Yes, we know that already. But the legislators haven’t proposed cutting the tax breaks. Instead they propose raising the regressive sales tax. The battle with the special interests must be fought. In fact, affected constituents and political activists must fight like crazy as well — so that, firstly, the legislators do the just thing, and, later, the public is informed about their choices.
Second: “Many advocacy organizations add to this uncertainty by leading the public to believe that all lawmakers need to do is close tax loopholes.” Well, I don’t know that anyone has said that closing tax loopholes is “all” that needs to be done. But it’s an obvious and important first step.
Third: “When cuts are made to counteract choices at the polls, cries of ‘How could they?!’ will be heard throughout the state and the legislature will be blamed once again.” I hear her. She says that very few legislators actually want to make the cuts. And, after all, the legislators are just following the will of the (misguided) voters. But the buck stops on the governor’s and legislators’ desks. Somehow they need to rouse support to do the just thing. Very few legislators stick their necks out and try to educate the public about how the people are voting against their own self-interest. The governor, in particular, has been M.I.A on this front. The proposal to raise the regressive sales tax may be politically more feasible than eliminating tax exemptions for billionaire corporations, but it too requires overcoming I-1053’s 2/3 requirement.
You can try to blame the greedy 1% or the gullible voters, but the legislators are elected to lead us, not just to follow. They need to take the initiative and fight back harder against things like I-1053.
Our leaders must not try to hide behind Tim Eyman. And we the 99% must not allow them to sell out to the 1%.