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Disputed analysis of I-1185 will stay

SATURDAY, AUG. 25, 2012

Sponsors wanted version from 2010’s I-1053 used

OLYMPIA – The fiscal note on the latest initiative requiring a supermajority in the Legislature for tax increases will remain in the state voters’ guide, even though it is different from a nearly identical initiative that passed in 2010, a judge ruled today.

That might not have much effect in the upcoming election, but it could be a point of contention in the Legislature next year if Initiative 1185 passes, sponsor Tim Eyman said.

The fiscal note prepared by the Office of Financial Management for Initiative 1185 – requiring a two-thirds legislative approval of any tax increase and a legislative vote on fee increases – says passage may cost the state $22 million to $33 million in lost toll revenues in 2017 and some other costs in agency fees.

Eyman challenged that assessment, arguing that I-1185 merely continues the initiative voters passed in 2010, so it doesn’t change anything. Calling the fiscal note a “gross injustice” stemming from “a complete lack of accountability,” Eyman, who is not an attorney, represented the initiative’s sponsors in a hearing on a request to have the fiscal note removed or altered.

I-1185 has the same ballot title as I-1053, he told Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon, and it should have the same fiscal note. In 2010, the note for I-1053 said that measure had no direct fiscal impact.

But since 2010, a pair of attorney general’s opinions that looked at I-1053 concluded that the new law could require additional authorization by the Legislature for certain fees, said Steve Dietrich, a deputy attorney general. OFM had to take those opinions into account when it made its assumptions.

“This isn’t the same situation they faced when they wrote (the fiscal note for) 1053,” Dietrich said.

The Legislature might have to authorize new fees, but that doesn’t cost anything, Eyman countered. At the very least, the voters’ guide should contain a line that says the fiscal note is disputed by sponsors, he said.

Eyman’s arguments were “largely political,” not legal, Dietrich said. State law allows for someone to challenge the wording of an initiative’s ballot title but doesn’t provide for a challenge of the fiscal note, he added.

“You simply don’t have the power to order OFM to rewrite in the way he would like,” Dietrich told the judge.

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