The so called "taxpayer bill of rights," which slashed jobs and services for years in Colorado is making new appearances in both Washington state and Maine.
The labor movement is warning that the push for a "taxpayer bill of rights" in both those states is just another radical right maneuver that, in the name of imposing a "tax cap," actually limits what state and local governments can spend on services for their residents.
In Colorado the sizes of school budgets were reduced drastically when a "taxpayer bill of rights" was adopted several years ago.
In Washington state and in Maine unions have joined with a wide range of environmental, civic and other groups to denounce the right-wing initiative, labeled I-1003.
Right-wing, Republican and conservative groups in Washington are rounding up financial support for the initiative and hoping to use fear of the economic recession to garner support for it, according to labor activists.
Kathy Cummings, communications director for the Washington State Labor Council, says unions are jumping into the battle with a full fledged education effort.
A fact sheet issued by her council says the "taxpayer rights" initiative "would cost Washington jobs, jeopardize our families' safety, and undermine our schools, transportation, health care and basic public services."
The I-1033 ballot proposition would limit funds for state, county and city governments by imposing an arbitrary cap on state funding, based on population growth and inflation. Labor leaders point out that the caps that are imposed have nothing to do with what the level of need for services might be at any given moment. "It would make it illegal to spend more than what was spent in the previous year on schools, police, fire protection, roads, libraries, parks, hospitals and other essential services," the council's fact sheet notes.
The state federation also notes that, "by imposing the cap when revenue is down due to recession, the initiative would lock in thousands of layoffs among teachers, nurses, fire fighters, police, road maintenance and other public service workers." Economists say there would be a ripple effect that causes additional private sector job losses.
Many who manage to hold onto their jobs would nevertheless suffer unpaid leave, furloughs and pay cuts, the federation says.
Essentially the same fight is taking place in the state of Maine where voters defeated a "taxpayer rights" initiative in 2006.
The right wing has brought it back again and the Maine AFL-CIO is holding information and training sessions for union members as part of an effort to build a movement against the measure.
"If this were to be enacted," said the Maine federation in a statement, "it would hurt workers, undermine public safety and threaten public services and our social safety net."