Initiative 1033: This boat won’t float.

People may disagree about whether Washington’s ship of state should tack to port or starboard. But Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1033, if approved by voters this fall, is the equivalent of drilling holes in the hull and going down with the ship.

I-1033 would cap state and local revenue growth according to a rigid formula based on population growth and inflation. It is very similar to an initiative called TABOR (short for “Taxpayer Bill of Rights”) adopted by Colorado voters in 1992 and suspended in 2005.

TABOR drilled so many holes in Colorado’s public structures, residents of the state still haven’t been able to bail out, even years later. A few highlights, from Washington State Budget and Policy Center’s comparison of I-1033 and TABOR:

  • Education: The economic boom of the 1990’s and early 2000’s allowed many states to increase education funding. TABOR forced Colorado to make deep cuts. In 1991-92, Colorado ranked 35th in state and local K-12 spending as a share of personal income. As of 2006 it ranked 48th. Public universities were hit too: between 1995 and 2005, higher education funding per resident student declined by 31 percent after adjusting for inflation, from $5,188 to $3,564.
  • Health: Colorado drastically scaled back its Medicaid program, leaving a system that provides only the bare minimum of services required by the federal government. In 1992, Colorado ranked 23rd in the nation with regard to adequacy and access to prenatal health care. By 2001, the state’s ranking had fallen to 48th.
  • Transportation: Under TABOR, Colorado’s investments in roads, highways, and other structures that are vital to the state’s economic growth waned. The state now ranks 48th in the nation in spending on highways as a share of personal income.

When it comes to taxes, Washington’s ship is definitely in need of repair. We can retrofit it. We can even build a new boat. But I-1033 just scuttles the ship while we’re sailing it.

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