FORKS, Wash. - Marion Melissa Burns, better known as Honey Bee, marched in the Forks "Old Fashioned Fourth of July Parade" last Sunday, July 4, carrying a placard that proclaimed, "Vampires for Fair Taxes...Yes! I-1098."
Forks, as fans of Stephanie Meyers' "Twilight" novels know, is home to heavy rainfall, loggers, and more vampires than Transylvania.
The crowds lining the sidewalks laughed and applauded Burns' sign. She stopped and spoke in a voice loud enough for them to hear, "Bill Gates Sr. is right! He and his son should pay higher taxes. Vote yes on I-1098 in November."
Gates, the millionaire father of Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates Jr. is strongly backing I-1098. What sense does it make, he asks, that poor people pay out 17 percent of their income in regressive sales taxes while he and other millionaires pay out only 2.6 percent of their income in taxes?
I-1098 would move toward tax fairness by imposing a graduated state income tax in Washington States on individuals earning $200,000 or more each year while cutting regressive property taxes by 20 percent. The new tax would generate an estimated $1 billion in annual revenues earmarked for public education and health care.
Burns, a caregiver of senior citizens and an active member of Service Employees International Union Local 775 NW collected 735 signatures to win ballot status for I-1098. She was one of the top signature gatherers statewide, exceeded by Imogene Williams of the Puget Sound Alliance of Retired Americans, who collected 800 signatures.
A broad coalition of unions and community organizations delivered boxes of petitions with 370,000 signatures to Olympia, the state capital, July 1, assuring ballot status for I-1098. Bill Gates Sr. was there to thank the grassroots army of petitioners for the thousands of hours they devoted to gathering the signatures,
Currently, Washington State has no income tax and depends entirely on an 8.5 percent sales tax and property taxes for revenues, making the state's tax system the most regressive in the nation. Sales tax revenues have collapsed in the current recession and the state is struggling with a more than $2 billion in deficits forcing widespread layoffs and benefit cuts.
Burns told the World that many people outside supermarkets in Sequim and Port Townsend "grabbed the clipboard out of my hand to sign as soon as I said, 'It's time to tax the rich.'"
The very positive response, she said, exposes as a myth the corporate rightwing media claim that they represent the majority in their crusade against taxation and government spending on programs like public education. "They lie, lie, lie," she said. "Now our challenge is to win a landslide victory for I-1098 in November. People are beginning to see that progressive tax reform is the answer to our current nationwide budget crisis not savage cuts in vital human services. We can fully fund education and healthcare if we increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy, end to the war in Afghanistan and reduce the trillions we waste on armaments."
Photo: Marion Melissa Burns (Tim Wheeler/PW)