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Effect of ceiling

With a ceiling on government income in place, why should we expect the ceiling to go down instead of up, as in the current trend of government growth?

      —  Posted 2009-11-17, From Sam Crager, Stanwood, Washington

      —  Answer adapted from www.ThePeoplesAmendment.com

The first point to notice is that it takes a two-thirds vote to raise the ceiling, but only a majority vote to lower the ceiling. So it will be much easier to lower the ceiling than to raise the ceiling.

In addition, approval of the initiative means that the people want to stop the government from growing so fast, in particular, at a rate faster than their ability to pay for it is growing. This implies that a request to increase the ceiling is a request to go against the wishes of the people that were expressed in approving the initiative.

Another consideration follows from a comparison of the dynamics of a legislature vote with the dynamics of a popular vote. The legislature is subject to a divide-and-conquer strategy, while the populace is not. More specifically, lobbyists use a divide-and-conquer strategy by obtaining the support of particular members of the legislature, who, in turn, obtain the support of additional members by trading votes. This won't work on the populace as a whole, not only because there are too many people in the state, but also because these people aren't in jeopardy of losing an elective office and, most importantly, because a popular vote is by secret ballot, so no voter can be held accountable for how they vote.

Evidence from Tim Eyman's initiatives indicates that although voters may elect fiscal liberals — as the citizens of Washington State tend to do — when the voters are given the chance to vote on limiting taxes through initiatives, they tend to vote in favor of the initiatives. Similarly, in May 2009, the citizens of California voted against raising their taxes to address the state budget crisis despite the appeal of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for higher taxes.