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What a day to miss an election! On Nov. 2, the fair citizens of
Washington state voted in favor of a referendum to do two things: 1) cut
the annual car tax from roughly the cost of a new yacht to 30 dollars
per year and 2) put the government on a leash. Down boy … snap!
And I missed it! Bummer.
The media is apoplectic. This opening line from The News Tribune is
typical: “Voters shrugged off claims that Initiative 695 would lead to
massive police layoffs, cutbacks in bus service and traffic gridlock and
decided Tuesday to give themselves a tax cut.”
Translation: what could they have been thinking! It brings to mind
the time that Peter Jennings compared the ’94 elections to “a temper
tantrum.” But we civilized adults, you see, (nose at 45-degree angle)
know better. …
The nattering nabobs of negativism just cannot bring themselves to
understand that the citizens of Washington State … are … not … a
… bunch … of … bleeding … hearts.
They used to be. Not for nothing was the state nicknamed the
People’s Republic of Washington well into the 1940s. And, with a
Democratic governor, a Democratic Senate and all but one statewide
office occupied by donkeys, it is still not and probably will never be a
Republican state (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
But it isn’t a liberal state either. The people may vote for
Democrats but, as this and many other referenda prove, they don’t trust
them. The electoral landscape can largely be divided into the following
categories: 1) the yuppie liberal in huge King County (in which moderate
Republican Senator Slade Gorton does not even bother to campaign any
more) and 2) everybody else.
Speaking for the King County libs, and echoed by every major paper,
Eat the State’s Maria Tomchick first tried to frame her opposition to
Initiative 695 on pragmatic (if liberal) grounds. “It … means less
money for social services: child abuse prevention, domestic violence
programs, school safety programs,” she said, but she couldn’t keep that
up for long. No, the real problem with cutting the car tax was that,
- … the auto license tab fee is the most progressive tax in the
State of Washington. It’s a tax on an environmentally damaging industry:
auto transportation. … (I)n this era of gas-guzzling, air-fouling,
road-hogging sport utility vehicles, the auto license tab tax ought to
be jacked up as an incentive to prevent people from buying and driving
their damn SUVs, and to encourage people to ride-share and take the bus.
There, you have it, both progressive and environmentally
sound. How could the voters ever reject that?
“Hmmm” the average Washingtonian must have asked himself on the eve
of the election, “On the one hand, I can save enough money to buy a new
kidney for my alcoholic uncle and make sure that the legislature can
never again raise taxes without my written approval. On the other hand,
I still want to be progressive and environmentally sound. …”
Tough call, I’m sure.
First, she’s wrong about the environmental part. The car tax was one
of the biggest things keeping old gas-guzzling clunkers on the road.
Second, I wonder if the loss of the tax will lead to any serious
revenue shortfalls at all. Opponents of the measure proclaimed — a
la Dr. Evil — the initiative would set us back one billion
dollars, which is the amount of the surplus that we have
conveniently sitting in the state’s coffers. Said Gregory Schwenzer to
TNT, “They’re saving that money down there in Olympia for a rainy day.
Well guess what, pal? It’s rainin’ today.”
And Washington State has a sales tax, so the increase in car sales
will kick more money back into the pot. It may not be enough to cover
the difference, but it will certainly cushion the blow. (Incidentally,
if you don’t think a significantly lower car tax will generate more car
sales, never read my writing again.)
Though wrong, Tomchick proved that she was not stupid by predicting
that, “I-695 will probably pass.” But when it does, she warned, “it’s
headed straight for court and a constitutionality review. Let’s hope it
Or let’s not. This is yet more typical liberal snobbery on full
display. “Well, Muffy, if those nasty little people vote against us,
we’ll get the nice judge to commit them and overturn the election.”
Over my dead license plate. The people of Washington State have
spoken. No one’s rights are being violated, and it was a free and fair
election. Some dumb judge had better not trifle with that.
Jeremy Lott is Managing Editor of the daily webzine, The American