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Originally published Sunday, September 26, 2010 at 4:00 PM

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Guest columnist

Eyman's Initiative 1053 undermines the principle of majority rule

EACH year, 147 part-time, citizen-representatives journey from every corner of Washington to our Capitol for a few months to serve in the...

Special to The Times

EACH year, 147 part-time, citizen-representatives journey from every corner of Washington to our Capitol for a few months to serve in the Legislature. I'm part of that effort to enhance our state's quality of life through opportunity of education, a vibrant economy, strong universities, clean water and so much more.

Our founders' vision of citizen-legislators — real people living real lives who engage in representative democracy — is central to Washington's populist history. This vision is built on the fundamental principle of majority rule: 50 percent plus one vote. Not 60 percent. Not two-thirds.

The principle itself is now under attack by Tim Eyman's undemocratic Initiative 1053.

The unconstitutional I-1053 would require a two-thirds vote in the state Legislature to raise any user fee or revenue from any source, for any purpose, in any amount, no matter how large or small. Forever.

Eyman has packaged the I-1053 as a populist cry to rein in big government. But Eyman is no volunteer citizen-activist — he is a well-funded, professional political operative paid handsomely to sell this fiercely ideological restriction.

On a deeper level, this initiative isn't really about taxes. It's about your democratic right to fairness.

Under the undemocratic I-1053, 17 legislators are encouraged and empowered to join forces to effectively seize control of our state revenue process. It prevents a majority of your 147 bipartisan citizen-legislators from prudently managing our finances. Despite our state's substantial challenges we still maintain the highest bond rating possible — saving taxpayers tens of millions — because of our fiduciary ability to responsibly balance the $32 billion budget.

I-1053 allows 17 legislators to block a new user fee as small as 25 cents for 911 emergency services, or to provide financial aid for college students or supplies for teachers. Realistically, it would also have the effect of locking in each and every existing corporate tax break, loophole and special-interest deal. Forever.

Our families and businesses are reeling from the disastrous Great Recession. Washington, like 47 other states, sees falling revenue and new demands for essential public services from regular families who need basic help. Our collective anxiety is high as the middle class struggles.

It's also true that the institutional bureaucracy of government can be maddeningly slow to reduce costs and improve quality in delivering public services.

But are we so consumed with rage that we are ready to use direct democracy from this initiative — requiring 50 percent plus one vote — to overthrow the revolutionary masterpiece of majority rule itself?

The way to reset government is not to concentrate power in the hands of political extremes. Cast your ballot for smart, thoughtful, bipartisan, courageous and imaginative citizen-legislators — nurses, veterinarians, teachers, lawyers, business people, authors, engineers — who will study complex issues and make responsible policy choices.

Federalist 58, a newspaper article written by James Madison in 1787, timelessly pens the moral opposition to I-1053:

"It would be no longer the majority that would rule: the power would be transferred to the minority ... an interested minority might take advantage of it to screen themselves from equitable sacrifices or to ... extort unreasonable indulgences ... (it would lead) to the ruin of popular governments, (more) than any other which has yet been displayed among us."

Fellow citizens, do not be seduced by the those selling everything for nothing — promising lower taxes, more access to education, a better job and improved quality of life if only you transfer your constitutional power to 17 extreme, partisan, special-interest-controlled ideologues.

We can be so much more than what we've become.

Let's stand together in the town square of today and summon the courage to defend democracy in her glorious imperfection. Vote no on the undemocratic, unfair and unwise I-1053.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, represents the 36th Legislative District.

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