Based on decades of experience, citizens have very low expectations when it comes to politicians on tax votes. From Republicans, they remember Bush 41 promising "Read my lips, no new taxes" and from Democrats, they remember Gregoire promising "Now is not the time to raise taxes" in 2004 and "I will not raise taxes" in 2008. Frankly, it's more often than not that the pro-taxpayer side gets sold out.
But the issue of car tab taxes is different. The entire establishment -- Big Business, Big Labor, politicians, and the press -- threw the kitchen sink at 1999's I-695. Outspent 10-1, the initiative passed by a huge margin. Its' policies and its' message were unambiguous: $30 car tab taxes and anything higher required voter approval. It was the most significant grassroots taxpayer victory in state history. But by way of exclamation points, there's two more reasons why voters rightly feel entitled to $30 tabs and betrayed for it being taken away:
1) After the court ruled against I-695 based on the single subject rule (a rule that supposedly applies to the legislature but never seems to be applied with the same rigor that was applied to I-695), Governor Gary Locke and the Legislature acted immediately. They weren't legally required to but the lobbying effect from the people's vote spurred them to repeal the state motor vehicle excise tax. It was 83-13 in the house, 39-9 in the senate, and Locke quickly signed it. Locke said "Regardless of the court's ruling today, $30 license tabs are here to stay." Voters took them at their word that they'd respect our vote and their vote.
2) Following that session, we recognized that there were still local car tab taxes and fees that were robbing citizens of their $30 tabs, so we sponsored and the voters passed I-776 in 2002. It was called "The Right to Vote on Higher Transportation Taxes Initiative." It repealed the county's authority to have car tab taxes, repealing a $15 fee counties were imposing. The initiative was challenged in court but the ruling was 6-3 that its provisions had "rational unity" and it was upheld and the local car tab taxes and fees and authority to impose more were repealed (Sound Transit's car tab tax was repealed by the voters too, but they got the court's to allow them to keep collecting the tax until 2027). So voters not only rightly feel entitled to $30 car tabs, they rightly expect to vote on any increases in them (we fell 5000 signatures short of qualifying a 3rd initiative on $30 car tab taxes in 2006, but there's little doubt the voters would have approved that one too).
Despite these repeated public votes and public reaffirmations, the repeated violations of our $30-car-tabs, voter-approval-for-more by state and local government politicians have served as a vivid example of how they don't listen to us.
So when Republicans Jane Hague, Kathy Lambert, Pete von Reichbauer, and Reagan Dunn assured their constituents for months that they wouldn't take away their right to vote, people took them at their word. They felt their elected officials "got it" by the words they used:
REAGAN DUNN: "I do not support the $20 vehicle license fee. Our economy is still struggling and this is a challenging time for many people in King County."
JANE HAGUE: "I will not take a councilmanic vote to raise taxes. Voters in this state have made it known through the initiative process that they wish to cap car tab fees. I respect that, and I firmly believe that altering this also requires a vote of the people."
KATHY LAMBERT: "I am not in favor of the Council approving a car tab fee increase. The current cap was set on by a vote of the people, and I respect the will of our citizens."
PETE VON REICHBAUER: "If the Washington State Legislature will not listen to the taxpayers, the King County Council should. And I for one have listened to my neighbors and I will NOT vote for the proposed car tab."
When it was reported that PVR had flip-flopped, citizens unloaded on him and he flipped back (and to his credit, he embraced his defense of the public vote and was very good advocate yesterday).
Last Thursday, we reported that Hague and Lambert had flip-flopped. Following their Friday press conference with Dow Constantine, citizens unloaded on them for their betrayal and both of them, by Monday, had flipped back to letting the voters decide. All day Monday to anyone who asked, they looked them right in the eye and said "You have my word that I will oppose taking away the people's right to vote." But in the late afternoon, after a one-on-one, face-to-face meeting with Dow Constantine (we'll never know all the things he gave them), they flip-flopped back to their original flip-flop position.
One reporter theorized that it wasn't lollipops and pork barrel projects that flipped Hague and Lambert, it was only political opportunism, that Hague was in a tight race for re-election and that's why she flip-flopped (as if selling out is a vote-getter). Oh goody, she sold us out because she was concerned for herself and not her constituents -- that makes us all feel so much better.
Yes, taxpayers lose tax votes by politicians all the time. But the above at least provides some perspective why everyone feels especially betrayed.
Here is a link to their photos and their own words.
For people to squeal about criticism of them for betraying their constituents is a classic "attack the messenger" tactic.
The guy who said the Emperor has no clothes wasn't very popular with the Emperor -- but what he said was true -- he was just calling it like he saw it.Posted by Tim Eyman at August 18, 2011 04:17 PM | Email This