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Snoqualmie considers opposition to I-1033

Snoqualmie considers opposition to I-1033

By Seth Truscott

Editor

Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson called on members of the Snoqualmie City Council to consider a resolution opposing Initiative 1033, the latest ballot initiative by anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman.

If approved by voters this November, I-1033 would limit growth of certain state, county and city revenue to annual inflation and population growth. Revenue collected above the limit would reduce property tax levies. Voter-approved increases, such as levy lid lifts, are exempt from the measure.

While Snoqualmie Finance Officer Donya Gregson said details on exactly how I-1033 would impact cities are still sketchy, the impact concerned Larson enough to ask for a resolution vote at the upcoming Oct. 12 council meeting.

In an interview with the Valley Record, Eyman said his initiative is meant to force cities to use fiscal discipline.

Text of the initiative states that "The people want the revenue limit for any year to be the previous year's general fund revenue plus an adjustment for that year's inflation and population growth. This will ensure the rate of growth of our tax burden does not exceed the taxpayer's ability to pay for it."

However, Larson complained that the initiative is coming "at a time when we're at the lowest ebb."

The city has been grappling with the effects of Eyman's Initiative 747 for the past 10 years. I-747 limited property-tax growth to 1 percent a year, and put the city in an unsustainable economic posiition, Larson said.

"It's a bit of punching a guy when he's down," he said, "We can't grow our revenues as fast as our expenses."

The city has identified a backlog of needed infrastructure maintenance — finding a way to pay for it all could involve a voter-approved measure in 2011 or sooner.

"Theres no such thing as a free lunch," Larson said. "We're going to have to go out and ask for a levy increase — which is exactly what's been sold with these initiatives."

Snoqualmie City Council has made similar stands in the past.

The council vote must be unanimous, however, to be binding.

"People do respect what their elected officials have to say," Larson said. Council members are elected to represent their constituents.

"If it was an issue that cuts both ways, then elected officials might not say anything," Larson said. "But if there is a strong voice from all persuasions, saying we think this is a bad thing — I think that is encumbent upon is to make that clear to the residents of the city."

The city of Carnation approved a resolution Sept. 15 urging voters to oppose I-1033.

"Pass all the resolutions you want," Eyman said, pointing to a Sept. 22 poll showing a strong lead for 1033. "All these resolutions are clearly backfiring."

"2009 is the starting point," Eyman said. "This is the most critical time for 1033's fiscal discipline. If you, the government, think you've got it tough, imagine if you're a taxpayer right now, or a business.

Eyman countered claims that the initiative will cripple government, saying that I-1033 still has the safety valve of voter-approved tax increases.

"They make it sound like government is this delicate house of cards, and if you take one thing away, it comes crashing down," he said. "They are much more resilient than they give themselves credit for."

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