Opinion

Editorial: I-1033 hurts local government

Leave it to big bully Tim Eyman to come along and kick sand in the face of our skinny little local governments.

Eyman has long been fighting what he sees as a bloated state government. In these battles of the ballot box he’s won some victories and made a few good points. But his new initiative, I-1033, not only picks on the state, it goes after the little guys as well.

If approved by voters Nov. 3, I-1033 would limit growth in certain state, county and city revenues to the annual inflation rate, plus population growth. Eyman was inspired by a big build-up in state spending over the last few years, but his target is much too broad, also including innocent bystanders, such as the local governments in Island County.

There is already a 1 percent property tax increase limit on local governments. Anything more requires a vote of the people. In Island County, the people have generally seen the need and approved tax increases when required for schools, libraries and emergency services.

At the county level, the 1 percent limit, when combined with a variety of state and federal grants and special taxes for specific uses, was relatively sustainable -- until the great recession came along. The county, along with the communities of Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Langley, depended on construction for additional revenue, everything from building and grading permit fees to sales tax receipts for construction materials. Now much of that new money is gone. The county has made major cuts in personnel, service to the public has suffered, and the island’s three towns are simply treading water, hoping to keep what they still have. Unless the recession comes to a unexpectedly quick end, there will be more cutting before the 2010 budgets can be adopted.

It’s a little uncertain how much Eyman’s I-1033 would immediately affect small county and city governments, but over the long term it would stifle basic services. And the “population” loophole in the initiative is worrisome. If local governments can increase revenue by promoting population growth, well, there goes the neighborhoods.

Tim Eyman’s I-1033 is unnecessary and cruel for local communities that are charged with supplying all basic human needs in terms of water, sewer, health and police protection. If you believe in local government, vote no on I-1033.

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