Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Reporter's Notebook

Editor’s note: Today we invited Kim Capeloto, president/CEO of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce to share his views on Initiative 1033, a measure up for voter approval on this November’s ballot. For Vancouver Council for the Homeless executive director Craig Lyons’ thoughts on I-1033, see VBJ’s Oct. 16 Op-Ed here.

Don’t fall for Tim Eyman’s folly

Initiative 1033, conservative political activist Tim Eyman’s latest ballot measure, is bad for businesses large and small and could not come at a worse time for our economy.

Even as we all hear reports that the recession is coming to an end, businesses in Vancouver and all across Clark County continue to struggle. Turning our economy around will not be easy – especially if voters approve I-1033 this November.

Let us not forget mistakes made more than a decade ago by voters in another state. Shortly after Colorado voters passed a similar initiative in 1992, the measure had to be repealed because it cut-off essential funding for the state’s schools, roads and bridges and businesses. Colorado’s economic growth decreased and fell far behind neighboring states just as the country emerged from that decade’s painful recession. Funding for K-12 education in Colorado dropped to 49th in the nation, resulting in the state being ranked among the lowest in the U.S. in high school graduation rates.

Do we have any reason to believe it would be different in Washington state? Not really. Eyman imported two fundamental – and damaging – elements of Colorado’s law. Like the Colorado measure, I-1033 would cap state and local spending at today’s recessionary levels, making the cuts caused by the recession permanent and determining future increases with a flawed formula based on inflation and population growth.

Though this funding formula may sound reasonable, I-1033 would have an immensely negative impact on our ability to educate our workforce, as well as maintain our local roads, both of which are lifelines for a growing economy.

The recession has forced state and local government to cut $1.5 billion in funding to our public secondary schools and universities – with $4.7 million cut from Vancouver public schools alone. This has led to more crowded classrooms and fewer teachers in our schools. For our public colleges and universities, a $500 million cut resulted in double-digit tuition increases. I-1033’s arbitrary limits would make these cuts permanent and cost jobs as companies look elsewhere for a highly-trained workforce.

The quality of our schools will not be the only casualty of I-1033. Eyman’s initiative also looks to undercut other foundations on which our local economy could grow.

Under I-1033, the recent $2 million public investment in Vancouver’s waterfront might not have happened. The same is true for the $1.3 billion Vancouver Waterfront Redevelopment project set to create an estimated 12,000 construction jobs and 2,500 permanent jobs for the area.

Clark County recently announced I-1033 would mean choosing between building new roads and paying police officers because there wouldn’t be enough money to do both.

The nonpartisan Office of Financial Management released a study estimating a reduction in state revenues by $5.9 billion if voters approve I-1033. Cities and counties would drop $2.8 billion over the next five years.

Despite Eyman’s claims, I-1033 would mean fewer jobs and more crowded classrooms. Under his initiative, state residents would feel the recession’s impact long after the rest of the country begins to recover.

I-1033’s rigid and over-simplistic formula has been tested and it has failed miserably.

In closing, Eyman’s initiative is bad for business and would slow our economy just as it begins to rebound. Eyman may not want our government to grow, but under I-1033 businesses would not grow either.

More than 250 organizations are working together to defeat I-1033. These include the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce, East Vancouver Business Association, Vancouver Education Association, Vancouver Firefighters, Vancouver Police Officers’ Guild, Washington State Hospital Association, Washington Education Association, League of Education Voters, Washington State PTA, Community Health Network of Washington, AARP Washington and the Washington Roundtable.

For more information, visit