Tuesday, September 8, 2009

WTFF: iii. The latest vomitus from the Tornado of Fail

Third in the series: What the Fucking Fuck?!

Washington Secretary of State: Initiative Measure No. 1033

Yeah, how long did it take for YOU to get bored and overwhelmed trying to read that bullshit?

As I said earlier, this is what HorsesAss proprietor Goldy had to say about it:

For all my reputation as a foul-mouthed muckraker and agitator, I’m not sure that any political observer in Washington state has written more substantively on a broader number of issues than I have over the past few years, and on no issue have I focused more acutely than those concerning government revenue and spending. Yet if you think my lengthy and wonkishly obsessive essays on, say, Washington state’s regressive and inadequate tax structure, can be boring to read, just imagine how painful they can be to research and write. That is the type of relentless effort necessary to adequately explain and refute I-1033, but the problem is, it simply doesn’t deserve it.

You see, I-1033 is a joke, totally undeserving of serious scrutiny, not because it stands no chance of passing (it does), or because its impact on our state and its citizens wouldn’t be devastating (it would), but because as an act of policy it is a capricious, vindictive, ridiculous, cynical piece of legislative bamboozlement based totally on lies, falsehoods, fabrications, distortions and lies, and thus any effort to discuss its provisions on substance—even on a lowly blog named HorsesAss.org—would be an insult to the public debate.

There you have it--straight from the horse's...ass'...er, mouth. Or something.

This is the latest offering in a series of fail by a local agitator named Tim Eyman. Tim Eyman has become a master of abusing the initiative and referendum process in Washington State.

A long time ago, when I first moved here, Washington got a substantial amount of income from something called the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax, or MVET. MVET was a pretty annoying and occasionally brutal thing, but it was a huge component of state revenue. Let me relate my experience concerning the MVET.

In 1998, while still living in Texas, I bought something called a Mazda Millenia S, which is no longer in production, but in many ways is similar to a Mazda 6. There was all kinds of exchange rate weirdness between the US and Japan at the time, so the list price of this car ended up being $40,000. But, no way this car was worth anything near $40k--most people actually bought theirs for around $28k, which is about what I paid. That may have still been a little too much, but what the hell, I was making really good money at the time and needed a new car. Plus they gave me $6k on my damaged and piece-of-crap used Toyota Tacoma. Yay.

When I moved to Seattle the next year, I found out that to license my car I had to pay MVET. Because the car was newer than two years old, I had to pay excise on the FULL LIST PRICE of the car. Which was $40,000. That's right, to get my tabs, I had to pay nearly $1000. This was nearly 2 extra car payments per year. I also found out that when I even qualified for depreciation, it was some ridiculous figure like 2% a year--I would be paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars per year to register this car. If the tax still applied today, I would still be paying $500 in excise taxes on a car that barely runs and makes horrifying "clicking" noises when I steer it.

Hardly seems fair, right? Well, I was not alone in my NUCYULAR rage. And apparently some bonehead in Mukilteo by the name of Tim Eyman had channeled that rage into a new citizen's initiative. Given the designation I-695, it promised to repeal the MVET and cap all registration fees at $30.

At first, I was like, AWESOME! But then I actually began to think about it--Washington's roads were actually pretty good back then. When things needed to get fixed, they got fixed. When recession hit, the MVET bolstered fluctuation in sales tax and property tax revenues. And Washington has no income tax, so you know, paying an extra $1k for a guy making six figures didn't seem like a serious burden. So, I was like, yes the structure of this tax is annoying and unfair, but Washington would be a much worse place without it.

The Democrats (who still ran things back then) had a chance to intercept this rage and do something reasonable, perhaps suggesting, "Yes, I know, everyone hates the MVET. We need the money, though--and look how great our roads are! We need to develop transit infrastructure, too. And some of our bridges need work. I'll tell ya what--if you vote against I-695, we'll change the formula for depreciation so the tax is not quite so unfair to people who buy highly-depreciating cars. We'll give people who live in their recreational vehicles a tax break. And we'll even provide an equalization process for people who feel their cars are grossly overvalued. But we need this revenue. Will you work with us?"

Oh, no, but they didn't do that. They said, "Tim Eyman, you suck. You go to hell. You go to hell and you die." And, thus, I-695 passed in a landslide. The government managed to get it thrown out on a technicality, but that simply increased public rage. So, the Democrats knuckled under and repealed the MVET anyway.

You might ask, what was the technicality? A second clause--ANY tax increase proposed by the legislature had to be ratified by the people in a plebiscite. I believe it had to pass by a supermajority (60%) as well, but I cannot remember exactly. Anyway, this violates the rules concerning initiatives--they must contain a single subject. Because, after all, this was Eyman's goal all along--he used the outrage concerning the unfairness of the MVET to try to worm through an initiative hamstringing the government's ability to raise revenue.

And now it's 10 years later, and parts of I-5 and I-90 are now so worn you can see the rebar sticking through in the pavement. Among tons of other things crumbling around us. Yeah, way to go, Timmy Baby! Not to mention huge surpluses in boom times becoming small ones which then gave way to tremendous structural deficits that threaten to destroy the efficacy of trivial things like, I don't know, higher education. I'll post more on structural deficits later--suffice it for now to say that Tim Eyman is pretty much THE reason we have structural deficits in this state.

Grover Norquist likes to talk about how he wants to make government so small he can drown it in a bathtub (an older friend of mine suggests this thought originally came from Thomas Dewey, but I think it was actually Norquist who coined it). Tim Eyman is the one actually filling the bathtub with water, though. You'd think that wrecking our roads would be enough of a lifetime accomplishment, but Eyman will NEVER quit until he can fit the Washington State government in his bathtub so he can drown it.

And that's what I-1033 is about. The bathtub is full and ready for the drowning. All you have to do is pass it, and Tim can get busy.

And to that, I say, What the Fucking Fuck? Especially given how people will just go "yeah, taxes bad, grrr" and vote for this piece of shit. God, I'm going to have to move away, but where the fuck will I go?

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