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"Commonwealth Protection Initiative" Filed To Modify I-1053

By Andrew Calkins January 10, 2011

This morning in Olympia, the Northwest Progressive Institute's director, Andrew Villeneuve, filed what he's calling the Commonwealth Protection Initiative, a measure intended to counter I-1053's two-thirds majority requirement to raise new revenue. The initiative seeks to alter I-1053's classification of a tax increase by defining the closing of a corporate loophole as a "restoration of lost revenue," rather than a revenue increase, making it easier for the legislature to close such loopholes.

In a post on NPI's blog earlier today, Villeneuve wrote that the initiative would help to "offset the next round of budget cuts by repealing some of the most egregious tax breaks on our books." This afternoon, he told PubliCola the initiative would encourage and enable legislators in Olympia to act on "those exemptions not benefiting the public good," including a B&O tax exemption for bank mortgage deductions that benefits big banks, some of whom helped to fund I-1053 last year. The state Department of Revenue estimates that closing this loophole alone could bring in $167.8 million. If voters approved the initiative this November, Villeneuve said that lawmakers could use the new mechanism to shape the 2012 supplemental budget with only a majority vote.

The Commonwealth Protection Initiative would also require a two-thirds majority vote to create a new tax loophole. The NPI Director wrote this morning that he's "personally of the opinion that this provision is just as unconstitutional as similar requirements in I-960 and I-1053."

Tim Eyman, who filed his own set of initiatives this morning, called the prospect of Villeneuve collecting 325,000 signatures a "fantasy." Eyman---who relies on paid signature gatherers himself---said it was more likely that the legislature would deliver a referendum to voters aimed at closing corporate loopholes, though he predicted voters would receive such a proposal with "dismay and disgust," given their recent rejection of I-1098 (the high-earners' income tax) and passed I-1107 (repealing the candy and soda taxes).

"Voters like the overall shield that I-1053 provides," Eyman said, likening closing corporate loopholes to raising taxes.
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