EDITORIALS Nov. 14, 2001, issue

Government should start cutting now

Voter approval of Initiative 747 raises the question of whether elected officials should try to mask the pain, as they did two years ago when voters approve I-695.

I-695 slashed the motor vehicle excise tax from hundreds of dollars annually for many vehicle owners to a flat $30. Before the election, public officials had issued dire warnings about the consequences, but dire outcomes never fully materialized.

Island County, for example, was on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. But the Washington State Legislature came to the rescue by “backfilling” about half of the loss with new state funding. In addition, the county commissioners had a healthy budget surplus at the time, and some of that was used to fill the remaining gap. As a result of these and similar actions, the full impact of I-695 was never felt.

Sparing the public the immediate effects of I-695 may have been good government, but it was perhaps poor strategy. When I-747 rolled around, supporters could argue that despite the warnings about I-695, not much happened. Government simply adjusted. Of course, there were still long-range consequences looming from I-695, particularly in transportation funding, but there was no immediate crisis in government services.

A similar situation now exists with I-747, which limits property tax increases for cities, counties and other taxing districts to 1 percent annually. The initial impact will be small, but as government costs grow from 3 to 5 percent annually, something eventually will have to give. Cuts in police officers, firefighters, health and other services seem inevitable.

When should those cuts be made? The temptation for local governments is to hope that the state will somehow provide more money, or to postpone the inevitable by tapping surpluses built up in the good times. The experience with I-695 suggests that is probably the wrong strategy. A large majority of voters want the government to spend less, and that’s what should happen as soon as practical.

Tim Eyman, the man who brought us both I-695 and I-747, promises another tax-cutting initiative on next year’s ballot. Voters have to see the true impact of the prior initiatives or they will be certain to support the next one, as well.

Governments should start cutting right now. Voters have the right to know what they have done so they can make a fully informed choice when the see Mr. Eyman’s next initiative on the ballot.

U.S. success stories continue

Most of us are proud to be Americans because somewhere back in time our ancestors came to this county, took low paying jobs, saved their money, and slowly built good lives in this land of freedom and opportunity. They never asked for a handout. Thanks to their efforts, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have also prospered.

This American success story has been told millions of time, and it’s still being told today by thousands of new immigrants. Two outstanding examples are Amrik Sing Rai and Paramjid Sing, two men from East India who recently purchased Henderson’s Restaurant and Queen Ann Motel in Oak Harbor. Their inspirational stories were chronicled in last Wednesday’s Whidbey News-Times.

In short, Singh came to the United States in 1982 and spent long years as a dishwasher until he had saved enough money to start his own business. One business success led to another, until today he owns a number of enterprises in Oak Harbor and Mount Vernon. His business partner, Rai, came to the U.S. in 1990. Together, they have worked hard and succeeded.

Unfortunately, their success was not the impetus for the newspaper story. The two men practice the Sikh religion, and because of their appearance some have mistaken them for possible terrorists and made rude comments or called the police — not because they were doing something suspicious, but simply because they looked different.

For those comments and reports to the police, we all owe Rai and Singh an apology. When we look at them, we shouldn’t see suspicious characters. We should see in their eyes our own parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. They all came here for the same reasons — freedom and opportunity — and as long as they keep coming America will remain the greatest nation on earth.

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