September 11, 2009 in City

Judge won’t edit Wash. voter’s pamphlet for I-1033

Associated Press
 

OLYMPIA — A judge has refused to order changes to the state voter’s pamphlet in a dispute over Initiative 1033, the latest ballot issue sponsored by professional anti-tax activist Tim Eyman.

The decision, which Eyman said he won’t appeal, means state election officials can continue their final preparations of voter materials for the Nov. 3 general election.

Initiative 1033 would cap the annual growth of state, county and city general funds at the rate of inflation plus population growth. Revenue above the cap would be used to reduce property taxes. Voters could separately approve additional revenue sources that go over the growth cap.

Eyman disagrees with some language in the voter’s pamphlet that estimates I-1033’s effect on government finances, particularly the calculations of which money sources would not be counted as general fund revenue.

At a Friday hearing, Eyman’s attorney asked Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks to order a disclaimer be printed in the voter’s pamphlet, notifying voters that the assumptions were in dispute.

Hicks refused. He said the court’s power to mandate actions by the executive branch of government doesn’t apply in cases like this, where the state budget director properly exercised his discretion under state law.

It would be a different matter, the judge said, if the Office of Financial Management had assigned an arbitrary figure or refused to prepare an estimate. But the court can’t force the agency to change its conclusions, Hicks said.

Even adding a footnote to the financial estimate should be a job for the legislative branch, the judge said, making Eyman’s request “a dangerous invitation that I should not accept.”

State officials had urged Hicks to deny Eyman’s request for those reasons. They also said Eyman filed his lawsuit too late, putting the state in an unfair time crunch: Only a few days now remain before Secretary of State Sam Reed says the voter’s pamphlet must be finalized and sent to the printers.

The campaign opposing I-1033 also weighed in Friday, saying Eyman’s disagreements should be aired in his own voter’s pamphlet statement, not through a judge’s order.

After the hearing, Eyman said he was still pleased to get his campaign’s disagreement with the financial estimate on the record.

The financial estimate says that, if approved by voters, I-1033 would reduce expected state revenue by nearly $6 billion over five years. City revenue would be cut by about $2 billion, and county revenue by nearly $700 million over the same period.

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