July 6, 2012 in Region

Eyman initiative aims to limit tax hikes in WA

I-1185 backers turn in 318,000-plus signatures
By The Spokesman-Review
Jim Camden photo

OLYMPIA — Mike Fagan (front) and his father Jack Fagan unload boxes of signed petitions for I-1185, the latest proposal to require super-majorities for tax increases. The Fagans, of Spokane, joined Tim Eyman Friday morning to turn in more than 318,000 signatures on their petitions, and likely qualify for the November ballot.
(Full-size photo)

OLYMPIA — Initiative promoter Tim Eyman, flanked by Spokane partners Jack and Mike Fagan, turned in more than 318,000 signatures today on a proposal to reiterate the super-majority needed in the Legislature to raise taxes.

The number of signatures provides a large enough cushion that Initiative 1185 will almost certainly be on the November ballot, along with two other measures that already qualified — to legalize marijuana and approve or reject a pending same-sex marriages law — and a likely fourth to allow school districts to set up charter schools.

Voters have approved previous Eyman initiatives to require two-thirds votes on tax increases by the Legislature and the most recent one remains in place. But after two years, the Legislature can amend a voter-passed initiative with a simple majority, and that’s what happened in 2010, when Democrats in both chambers suspended the super-majority requirements, then approved tax increases on several items, including soft drinks and cigarettes.

At a make-shift press conference at the back of the truck containing boxes of their petitions, Eyman and the Fagans warned the Legislature might repeat that move if voters don’t pass I-1185. They also faced challenges from opponents, who contend I-1185 is being funded by large corporate interests that want to protect themselves from tax increases.

Eyman dismissed suggestions that the state Supreme Court could rule an initiative-passed super-majority is unconstitutional. Two cases are headed to the high court involving the current law.

The court has had a chance to rule on the constitutionality of the tax super-majority before, he said, and refused.

But Gov. Chris Gregoire said during a morning press conference that previous court decisions turned on the timing of the challenge to the law, and the issue wasn’t “ripe” at those times. Now the court faces questions about taxes that have been approved and they should decide whether a super-majority for taxes would need to be adopted by a constitutional amendment rather than a statute. l.

“That’s where the solution lies,” said Gregoire, who added she doesn’t believe the current law or the initiative is constitutional.

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