Buck assails votes to scrap I-601, raid tobacco settlement

Olympia, WA - 3/13/02 - On party-line votes of 50-46 Tuesday and early Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved legislation to roll back provisions of the
voter-approved spending law and to sell off part of Washington s tobacco
settlement to balance the current operating budget. Rep. Jim Buck, R-Joyce,
was sharply critical of the bills, which he said not only undermine public
confidence in the Legislature, but will pave the way for tax increases and
make the state s financial problems even worse in the future.

Buck strongly opposed both measures, but was particularly troubled that
Senate Bill 6819 gutted a key provision of Initiative 601that required a
two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise taxes. The bill stripped out
the restriction and replaced it with language that would allow taxes to be
increased with a simple majority vote. Although House Democrats asserted
that rolling back the initiative is temporary, Buck said he regarded the
bill as an affront to voters who passed the spending-limit law in 1993.

"Not only does this telegraph the majority s intention to raise taxes to
balance the budget, but it sends an especially troubling message to the
people of Washington that their decision on I-601 has been ignored. The
voters made it clear they wanted government to live within its means, but
when it came time to honor that mandate, the majority party turned its back
on us. At a time when citizen confidence in government is already at a low
ebb, this reflects a serious violation of the public trust," said Buck, who
serves on the House Appropriations Committee.

The House also approved Senate Bill 6828 on a straight party-line vote. The
bill authorizes the state to sell off part of the state s tobacco
settlement payments to raise $450 million in cash that would be used to pay
for operating budget expenditures. Republican lawmakers called the proposal
fiscally irresponsible.

"The majority s plan calls for selling bonds, but there s no way to know
what the state will get back from investors. It may be as little as 25
cents on the dollar. It s bad policy to use one-time borrowed money to pay
for long-term expenditures. After the fast-cash is spent, we will still
have programs to pay for, and the taxpayers are saddled with 30 years of
bond payments," said Buck. "This is like using credit cards to buy
groceries. Eventually you re out of money, you have bills coming due, and
you still have a family to feed.

"My colleagues on the other side of the aisle have assured us that tapping
the tobacco money will prevent a general tax increase, but then they change
I-601 to make it easier to raise taxes. What that tells me is that no
matter what they say, tax increases are coming," he concluded.

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