Given that anti-tax initiative hawker Tim Eyman and Seattle Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Queen Anne) were foes during last year's debate over I-1185 (Eyman's most recent measure requiring a two-thirds vote of the legislature to raise taxes), it's interesting that Eyman's latest initiative reads a bit like something Carlyle would say.
Here's the deal: Eyman's latest measure would limit any new tax passed by the legislature to one year; if the legislature wanted the tax to continue, they'd have to pass it again next session. (Eyman's two-thirds rule, which did win at the polls last year, was declared unconstitutional by the Washington State Supreme Court this year—making it easier for the legislature to raise taxes this year.)
"Rep. Carlyle's bill language requiring an expiration date on all tax expenditures was a key inspiration for our expiration of tax increases imposed by the legislature."—Tim Eyman
Rep. Carlyle, the house finance chair who's proposing $500 million in new revenue this biennium for K-12 funding by closing tax loopholes (which conservatives label new taxes), has been obsessed for a couple of years now with forcing tax loopholes to sunset and then face a legislative vote. In his mission, Carlyle often used Eyman's two-thirds rule as a foil, pointing out the absurdity that it took a simple majority to create a tax loophole, but a two-thirds vote to repeal one.
In a precursor to this year's K-12 revenue bill, Carlyle proposed a bill last to year to make all tax exemptions expire and then make the legislature vote on them if they were to continue.
Eyman told me today:
Rep. Carlyle's bill language requiring an expiration date on all tax expenditures was a key inspiration for our expiration of tax increases imposed by the legislature. Our initiative's text is quite similar to his 2012 bill. The big difference is Reuven wanted 20 years worth of tax expenditures to expire where our initiative's one-year time limit only applies to tax increases from this point forward. But the policy rationale is the same: Is it working as intended?
While Eyman is obviously reveling in a facetious gotcha, Carlyle's tax exemption legislation did say:
The state must also take proactive measures to continue tax expenditures that prove beneficial to the state according to objective,rigorous, financially based return-on-investment standards. Requiring all tax expenditures to have a periodic expiration date allows those tax expenditures that are out-of-date, or failing to deliver the promised benefits or a measurable return on investment, or otherwise failing to garner widespread support for their continuance ...
And this year, when Carlyle rolled out his loophole-lopping revenue package, he said the Democrats were going after tax breaks that "couldn't justify a return on investment for taxpayers if they tried."
Asked about the similar theme, Carlyle, referring to the the state's constant budget shortfall, says: "Perhaps instead of a battle over expirations of tax exemptions and increases, our state should have a meaningful, public conversation about tax reform that works for citizens, businesses and our future."
Photos by Josh Feit.