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In what may be considered a mid-summer ritual, an initiative sponsored by Tim Eyman qualified last week for the November ballot and was denounced by his ardent detractors. Eyman comes up with some initiative or another every year – it’s his business, after all – and his opponents stay exercised by pointing out what’s wrong with them.
This year he wants to force the Legislature into sending voters a constitutional amendment next year that would require legislators to approve tax increases with a two-thirds super-majority.
Such an amendment would have to pass both chambers by that same super-majority. Because it is difficult to force the Legislature to do anything with a simple majority, let alone the higher standard, Initiative 1366 contains a gun-to-the-head provision. The state sales tax would be dropped by 1 cent per dollar if the Legislature doesn’t comply. That’s a hit of more than $1 billion a year to the state’s coffers.
Within 24 hours of the petition signatures being certified, opponents were asking a court to keep the initiative off the ballot. This is a common, but rarely successful, strategy because the Supreme Court usually declines to rule on the legality of an initiative unless voters pass it. Until that happens, it is what Joey Tribbiani of “Friends” used to call a “moo point”, that is, it’s like a cow’s opinion; it doesn’t matter.
OLYMPIA — Initiative impresario Tim Eyman's latest effort to make it harder for the Legislature to raise taxes will be on the fall ballot.
State election officials said Wednesday Initiative 1366 has more than enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, and will join Initiative 1401, which would give added protections to certain endangered species.
I-1366 attempts to force the Legislature to send voters a constitutional amendment that would require super-majorities from each chamber to approve any new tax increase. The initiative is sponsored by Voters Want More Choices, an organization operated by Eyman and two associates from Spokane, Mike Fagan and Jack Fagan.
Voters have approved previous initiatives by Eyman’s organization that demanded super-majorities in the Legislature for new taxes. But the Supreme Court threw out the most recent such initiative, saying that kind of change requires a constitutional amendment, which must originate in the Legislature not with the initiative process. A constitutional amendment must be passed with a two-thirds majority in each chamber, followed by voter approval with a simple majority.
Under I-1366, the Legislature would have to pass such an amendment by next April 15, or the state sales tax would drop from 6.5 cents to 5.5 cents on the dollar. That would cut state revenue by about $1 billion per year.
OLYMPIA — In what may be the most unusual alignment of political bedfellows of the session, anti-tax initiative maven Tim Eyman told supporters they may need Gov. Jay Inslee to save the state from a massive tax increase proposed by Senate Republicans.
Since April Fool's Day was 22 days ago, this might need some 'splaining.
Eyman is joining the chorus of critics of a plan from members of the predominantly Republican Senate Majority Coalition Caucus to change the way property taxes are collected and distributed for some school costs, like teacher salaries. They are proposing what is generally short-handed as a "levy swap" in which the state levy on property taxes would go up while the school district on property taxes would go down, and the extra money coming into the state coffers would go back out to the schools to pay salaries, which the state Supreme Court has said is a cost of basic education and thus a constitutional responsibility of the state.
Yeah, that's pretty dense and your eyes are starting to glaze over. But stay with us here and we'll get to the politically interesting part.
Senate Republicans unveiled their plan last week describing it as "revenue neutral", which is legislative speak for it doesn't cost more money. But there's a caveat. It's net neutral statewide. Taxes in some districts would go up, in some districts they'd go down. Senate Democrats, who have a different plan to handle this court mandate, crunched some numbers and said about 60 percent of residents would pay more in this swap, so for them, it's a tax increase.
Definitely a tax increase, Eyman declared sent in a fund-raising missive to "our thousands of supporters" that also doubles as a fund-raiser. He also pointed out that when Inslee was running for governor in 2012, he was definitely opposed to such a levy swap, which was being proposed by his Republican opponent, then-Attorney General Rob McKenna.
"Will Governor Inslee come riding to the rescue when it comes to the Senate Republicans' bill, which does exactly what he ridiculed?" Eyman asked "Inslee despised it as a candidate, will he stop it as governor? Can we count on him to protect us from this massive property tax?"
Apparently yes, although maybe without a trusty steed to carry him to the damsel in distress.
At a press conference today, Inslee called it a "very significant tax increase" in some parts of the state. And in those districts, he said, pulling out his best trump card: "It would raise taxes on widows and World War II veterans because you want to protect millionaires." He prefers the Senate Democrats' plan for a capital gains tax of investment earnings above $250,000, but was quick to say that wasn't out of jealousy of millionaires, who "ought to be hailed as heroes", but because it was more fair.
Eyman, not surprisingly, does not go along with Inslee on that score. He's against any tax increase, which he thinks Democrats will try to foist on the state by other means. Which, he says making the pivot, is why the state needs a constitutional amendment to require two-thirds super majorities in the Legislature for any tax increase. Raising money for his latest plan to enact such a restriction was the closing appeal of the e-mail.
OLYMPIA — Initiative entrepreneur Tim Eyman will not have a measure on this fall's ballot.
Eyman informed supporters today that he and his associates, Spokanites Mike and Jack Fagan, will not be turning in signatures for Initiative 1325, an effort to force the Legislature into sending voters a constitutional amendment for a super-majority to raise taxes. Today is the deadline for signatures to go to the Secretary of State's office.
In an e-mail, Eyman said the campaign worked really hard, but fell short because qualifying for the ballot is "brutally difficult". It also promises to work harder next time. It also contends that just the threat of I-1325 "was incredibly effective in deterring the Legislature from raising taxes this year."
Well, that and the fact the Legislature's two chambers were controlled by different parties that agreed on almost nothing when it comes to taxes.
The e-mail, like most Eyman missives to supporters, doubles as an appeal for money. The post script that says "Please don't forget about us. Jack, Mike and I only earn what our supporters decide to give" and offers a link to the website where contributions can by made by PayPal or credit card.
I-1325 was one of six versions of the the supermajority proposal that Eyman and company filed this year. Longtime Eyman critic Andrew Villeneuve of the Northwest Progressive Institute predicted they wouldn't make the ballot about a week ago, noting the signature effort for I-1325 seemed non-existent and the campaign was not spending money for paid signature-gatherers.
OLYMPIA — For years, Tim Eyman and company proposed initiatives to require a super-majority for taxes. Voters approved them even though opponents said they were unconstitutional.
Turns out opponents were right, or so said the state Supreme Court in last year's ruling that such a change requires an amendment to the state Constitution. But Washington doesn't allow amending the Constitution by initiative; that has to start in the Legislature, get a super-majority there and then move to the ballot. A proposal along those lines last session didn't get much more than lip service.
Today Eyman proposed an initiative that attempts to goad the Legislature into approving such a constitutional amendment. It would cut the state sales tax by a penny, down to 5.5 cents per dollar in 2015 unless the Legislature approves an amendment in the 2015 session that requires a two-thirds yes vote for any tax increase. If they put that on the ballot, no sales tax cut.
Eyman and his organization also filed initiatives to outlaw red-light cameras and re-instate $30 license tab fees, but the proposal to pass the supermajority or lose some of the sales tax proposal seems likely to be the initiative they will put their efforts, and their fund-raising machinery, behind. They filed numerous initiatives to the voters and the Legislature last year in an effort to force a 2/3rds amendment onto the ballot, but eventually abandoned them to concentrate on I-517, the initiative to change the initiative laws, which failed in November.
The proposal hasn't been issued a number yet. If history is any indicator, Eyman is likely to file several versions of the idea before settling on one to take to the printer and begin circulating.
Meanwhile, at the Secretary of State’s office, someone filed an initiative to rename the fallen and resurrected Skagit River Bridge for initiative entrepreneur Tim Eyman. . .
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Mike Fagan, Tim Eyman and Jack Fagan, left to right, to file an electronic copy of their new initiative at the Secretary of State's office Wednesday. After several attempts, they wound up submitting a paper copy and paying the $5 filing fee.
OLYMPIA – Unable to ask voters again to approve an initiative requiring supermajority approval of tax increases, a trio of self-described tax fighters will try to prod the Legislature into putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot.
Perennial initiative sponsors Tim Eyman of Mukilteo and Mike Fagan and Jack Fagan of Spokane filed an initiative Wednesday that would require a public vote on any tax increase, a one-year limit on any new tax, and an advisory vote on whether voters should get to vote on a constitutional amendment that requires the Legislature pass any tax increase with a two-thirds majority.
The initiative comes with an “escape clause” which says if the Legislature puts that constitutional amendment up to a public vote, other provisions go away. . .
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OLYMPIA – As state law enforcement officials began investigating more than 8,000 allegedly forged signatures for a pair of ballot measures, a legislative panel looked at changes to the century-old avenue for grass-roots democracy, the initiative process.
One suggestion the Senate Governmental Operations Committee aired out Thursday: Give initiative campaigns more time to circulate petitions.
“If we give citizens more time to get involved, you wouldn’t need paid signature gatherers,” Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said. . .
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OLYMPIA — An initiative designed to make changes in the state's initiative law has enough signatures to be sent to the Legislature.
As expected, the Secretary of State's office cleared Initiative 517 for the next step, which is a decision by the Legislature whether to pass it or let it go to the voters in November, either by itself or with an alternative.
I-517 comes from Tim Eyman and his allies, and would set up penalties for harassing signature gatherers, require that all ballot measures that have enough signatures appear on the ballot, and extend the time for gathering signatures from six months to a year.
Under current law, initiatives to the people are filed no earlier than January of the year in which they will appear on the ballot, giving supporters until the end of June, or about six months, to gather signatures. I-517 would allow proposed initiatives to be filed in June of the year prior to the election, and give them through June of the election year to gather signatures.
OLYMPIA – Almost every year for more than a decade, Washington’s premier proponent of initiatives, Tim Eyman, has had a ballot measure to promote, and 2013 is no exception. This year’s initiative topic: initiatives.
Eyman and other supporters of Initiative 517 filed petitions with more than 345,000 signatures Thursday for a proposal that would make changes to the state’s initiative law. It would set penalties for anyone harassing a signature gatherer, allow signatures to be gathered at the entrance to any store or inside or outside any public building, and add an extra six months to the signature-gathering process.
Initiatives to the people can now be as early as January for a general election in November, but the petitions must be turned in by early July for signatures to be checked and counted for validation. Processing the proposal before it’s ready to print petitions so signatures can be gathered can take weeks, so the practical time for gathering signatures is often five months or less. I-517 would allow initiatives to be filed as early as July of the year before the election, essentially giving a campaign up to a year to gather signatures.
I-517 has about 100,000 more signatures than the minimum requirement, which makes it all but certain of being validated. It would go first to the Legislature, where it could be passed into law. The Legislature could also reject it, which would put it on the general election ballot, or pass an alternative, which would put both proposals before voters in November.
OLYMPIA — The fiscal note on the latest initiative requiring a supermajority in the Legislature for tax increases will remain in the voters pamphlet, 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 could be a point of contention in next year's Legislature if Initative 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 between $22 million and $33 million in lost toll revenues in 2017 and some other costs in other 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 James Dixon. It should have the same fiscal note, which in 2010 said I-1053 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 addiltional authorization by the Legislature for certain fees, Steve Dietrich, a deputy attorney general said. OFM had to take those opinions into account when it made its assumptions about the effect of continuing the law.
"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 pamphlet 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 a mechanism for challenging the fiscal note for an initiative, he added.
"You simply don't have the power to order OFM to rewrite in the way he would like," said Dietrich told the judge.
Dixon agreed the order Eyman was seeking, a writ of mandamus, didn't apply to the case. If it had refused to write any fiscal note, that option might be available, but OFM has the discretion on how it prepares a fiscal note, he said. If it came up with conclusions that were "arbitrary and capricious", the court might also be able to step in.
"It is not arbitrary and capricious to review a law and come up with new conclusions," Dixon said.
After the hearing, Eyman said he didn't know how much effect the fiscal note will have on voters, and many probably won't study it. "I think voters have seen this issue before, so they're pretty well-educated on it."
But politicians do pay attention to things like the fiscal note, and Eyman and other initiative supporters will raise the part of the analysis that talks about the Legislature needing to approve at any opportunity during the next session.
The campaign has no plans to spend money on ads to rebut the fiscal note, he said. But the court challenge was important for creating a record of the sponsors' objections, if questions about the fiscal impact come up in debates or interviews.
Friday’s deadline for turning in initiatives demonstrated clearly that letting voters approve legislation at the ballot box might still be an exercise of government of the people, but getting a measure on the ballot is all about money.
Of some 55 proposals that were filed this year and a half-dozen or so that made at some level of effort to gather signatures, only two reached the deadline with enough names to make the ballot. Both relied heavily on large infusions of cash from businesses or wealthy donors to pay people to collect those names. ..
OLYMPIA — Signed petitions on an initiative to reiterate the supermajority needed for the Legislature to approve tax increases will be turned in Friday morning.
Tim Eyman and other sponsors of Initiative 1185 will be carting boxes of petitions into the Secretary of State's Elections Division office at 10:30 a.m., Eyman said. That's about 90 minutes after petitions for an initiative to allow public schools to set up charter schools
His announcement followed just one day after he told supporters "we're not there yet" and urged them to get even partially filled petitions to the campaign offices because "every signature counts."
Initiatives require about 242,000 valid signatures from registered voters to qualify for the ballot, and state elections officials always urge campaigns to collect at least an extra 15 percent to account for duplicates, people who arent registered and signatures that don't match the state's voter registry.
OLYMPIA — Initiative 1125, which would have placed restrictions on how tolls can be levied and spent, is officially a loser.
Although the fate of the proposal seemed fairly likely when it ended Election Night behind, The Associated Press night called it for the No camp Wednesday evening after another day of ballot counting in some of the state's biggest counties.
Among them, a 71,000 vote margin on the side of the opposition in King County. Other counties voting No included Spokane, Snohomish, Thurston, Whitman, Garfield and Adams. Overall, I-1125 is down by about 40,000 votes out of nearly 1.3 million cast, or about 51.5 percent No and 48.5 percent Yes.
For a map of the county-by-county results on I-1125, click here.
Well, the election results are in. While I refrained from discussing particular candidates I couldn't keep quiet about that poison that is I-1125. Neither could Democratic State Party Chair Dwight Pelz.
Last night at Fado Pub, where the No on I-1125 gang gathered, he declared: "Tim Eyman is like herpes. Just when you think it's gone, it comes back." Of course, everybody wondered if he was speaking from personal experience.
"Do I develop a rash every time another Eyman initiative comes on the ballot?" Pelz asked, re-framing the question. "Yes."
Leave it to Tim Eyman. The non-partisan Office Of Financial Management released a report basically saying I—1125 would completely screw up highway improvement plans that highway drivers are counting on, even though it's being sold as something that has the best interests of highway drivers in mind. Classic.
Check their analysis HERE.
But there's more, of course. Just follow the money.
Image courtesy of The Stranger.
OLYMPIA – A coalition of House Democrats and education advocates are asking the courts to void the supermajority required for tax increases, arguing that it’s an unconstitutional limit on legislative authority.
State Republicans and the sponsor of initiatives that have repeatedly resulted in voters imposing that two-thirds majority quickly denounced the lawsuit as ignoring the will of the voters.
Tim Eyman, who had another such initiative certified Monday for this November’s ballot, said the suit could boost that measure. It could also provide campaign fodder for Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, who as state attorney general will have the task of defending the supermajority requirement in the courts.
“This is going to bode well for us,” Eyman said of Initiative 1125. “It’s an extraordinary gift they’ve given to the McKenna campaign.”
Initiative sponsors Tim Eyman (right) and Mike Fagan hold a press conference Friday while elections workers begin counting their petitions.
OLYMPIA — Supporters of an initiative to limit the use of road taxes and tolls dropped off their petitions Friday morning with a comfortable cushion that suggests they'll be on the November ballot.
Sponsors Tim Eyman and Mike Fagan wheeled in boxes of petitions they said held some 327,000 signatures for Initiative 1125, an effort to rein in tolls, taxes and fares and force any increases to be approved by the Legislature.
"These kinds of decisions need to be made by elected officials," Eyman said. Tolls would also come off of different projects when the bonds sold to build them are paid off.
Waiting for Eyman and company were members of a forming coalition against the plan. Former State Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald called the proposal "a mish mash" of ideas that doesn't understand modern systems of tolling. It could cause problems for plans to enlarge the 520 bridge across Lake Washington by restricting the use of funds from tolls on the I-90 bridge, he said.
Assuming that the cost of a road or bridge stops when the bonds are paid off is like assuming the cost of owning a house stops when the mortgage is paid off, he said; tolls need to continue to pay for ongoing maintenance.
OLYMPIA — Earlier in the week, Spin Control mentioned that inveterate initiative sponsor and sometime gubernatorial critic Tim Eyman would be attending the final bill signing ceremony that included all those little bills — the operating budget, the capital budget, workers compensation reform, government streamlining.
Spin Control might also have implied that some antics were expected, considering Eyman had in previous appearances made some gestures that signified he didn't much like a particular bill while posing for the ceremonial post-signing photo.
It seems only fair to note that Eyman was what mom would have called a good guest Wednesday. Not only did he not give anything a thumbs down, stick out his tongue or make rabbit ears behind Gov. Chris Gregoire during photos, he brought her a bouquet of flowers.
It would be safe to say Gregoire was surprised, and touched.
He was around when Gregoire signed the budget and said she was not vetoing a shift of money from the state auditor's account that Brian Sonntag said could affect his ability to do performance audits. She said she didn't agree with the shift, and will watch it carefully but "I'm not worried about the Legislature turning its back on perfromance audits."
Later he called to say that while he was disappointed that she didn't line-item veto that piece of the budget, he thought the Legislature essentially left Gregoire with no choice in the matter, and that they should be blamed, not her.
Initiative-meister and red-light camera-hater Tim Eyman is urging adherents to send e-mails to city leaders around the state decrying the tactics of a leading camera purveyor.
The Spokane mayor and city councilmember were included in his missive this week to supporters, asking them to urge leaders to take a stand on “sleazeball” tactics of ATS, the red-light company that operates the systems in Spokane and many other communities. It's a response to a story in the Everett Herald this week that indicates a company executive waged an “Astroturf” campaign on that paper’s website to support the systems when locals criticized them.
Spokane city spokeswoman Marlene Feist said city officials had only received a handful of e-mails Thursday. That seemed low, prompting some worrying that Eyman was slipping, until a check of his e-mail links showed addresses were incorrect for several Spokane officials.
The correct e-mails can be found here.
Are you suprised? The Seattle Times reported a national conservative group called The Sam Adams Alliance awarded initiative champion Tim Eyman $20,000 for his “lifetime commitment” to “shrink the size of government in Washington State.”
It gets worse. In a press release the group called Eyman “a modern day Sam Adams.” There's no denying he can play the game and win - whether you believe in his policies or not. Last year his I-1053 passed, requiring a two-thirds majority to raise taxes. Oil refiner Tesoro contributed heavily to the campaign- about $90,000 and BP threw down 100, 000.
Well, I don't believe in his politics. The man is a monument to hyperbole and deception. A year without a controversial Tim Eyman initiative - since 1997 to be exact - just wouldn't feel right—fifteen initiatives. A few have been environmental hit jobs like Initiative I-985 in 2008, a failed attempt to reduce traffic congestion for single-occupant vehicles.
Left in the legislative ash heap last week was a bill to revise rules for initiative campaigns by charging as much as $500 to file a ballot measure and putting stricter rules on people paid to gather signatures.
Like previous attempts to change ballot measure rules, SB 5297 brought out Tim Eyman and other initiative entrepreneurs who understandably don’t want the Legislature messing with a system they’ve figured out. Certain progressive “good-government” groups, eager to clean up abuses they see, provided the opposing view and generated heartfelt if conflicting testimony at the hearings.
Eyman is always quotable, in an “Armageddon is the next stop if we get on this railroad” sort of way. The good government groups warned of dastardly deeds by signature collectors, and usually mentioned a case from Spokane involving the mother-daughter team of Theresa and Mercedes Dedeaux.
The Spokesman-Review detailed the case early last year, when it became a cause célèbre for another bill with another set of restrictions on paid signature gatherers which also ultimately died. This seems a good time for an update…
OLYMPIA – Cities that want to install cameras to catch motorists who run red lights or speed through school zones would have to get voter approval under bills before the Legislature.
They might also have to make the yellow light last a bit longer at intersections with cameras or set the lights so they are red in all directions for at least a second. They wouldn’t be able to promise a share of the ticket revenue to the company that sells them the cameras.
Traffic ticket cameras started as a pilot project several years ago and “turned into a big problem in Washington state,” Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, told the House Transportation Committee Tuesday. He proposed two different bills, using different standards for setting up the system; but both would require voter approval whenever a city starts or expands a red light camera program.
OLYMPIA — City of Spokane officials might be watching one election result from across the state pretty closely on Nov. 2. Or if not, they should.
The City of Mukilteo has an initiative that severely limits the use of red-light cameras and speeding cameras which issue tickets to motorists they catch running lights or driving too fast. It would require a two-thirds majority of that city council AND a simple majority of voters to approve the devices, and reduce the cost of a fine to the amount of the lowest parking ticket.
The ballot measure, sponsored by Tim Eyman, had huge numbers of signatures at its turn it, and qualified for the ballot. When one combines the universe of voters unhappy with their government with the universe of voters who don’t like to make it easier for police to issue them speeding and traffic tickets, it’s would seem this proposal has at least a decent chance of passage. (Note deliberate understatement as an literary device.)
A successful campaign in Mukilteo could spread across the state like BP oil in the Gulf. It’s also important to note that Eyman’s two chief lieutenants, Jack and Mike Fagan, are Spokane residents.
OLYMPIA — Supporters of the initiative to restore the two-thirds majority required for any tax increase are the latest to do a signature drop.
This morning they turned in what sponsor Tim Eyman estimated was more than 333,000 signatures. Like the other petitions turned in so far, that all but guarantees them a spot on the ballot because the threshold is just over 241,000, and a margin like that allows the Secretary of State’s office to do the simpler “spot-check” for validation.
They followed on the heels of I-1107, a plan to repeal most of the temporary consumer taxes (soda, candy, bottled water, but not beer) enacted by the Legislature this spring, which turned in an estimated 395,000 signatures.
That makes five for the ballot: One to privatize liquor sales, one to add private insurance to the mix on workers compensation, one to institute an income tax on people who make more than $200,000, one to repeal taxes that have gone into effect in the last month, and the two-thirds majority.
Another proposal to privatize liquor sales is due in around lunchtime. The proposal to legalize marijuana use didn’t get enough signatures and has cancelled its 4:20 appointment.
OLYMPIA — Initiative guru Tim Eyman’s latest ballot proposal seeks to ban automated ticketing cameras for running red lights in Mukilteo unless they are approved by two-thirds of that city’s council AND a vote of the public.
Spin Control mentioned this morning that Eyman had an event to unveil a new initiative. This is it.
OLYMPIA — Initiative sponsor par excellance and alert reader Tim Eyman points out an inaccuracy in last Saturday’s item about the tax increases Gov. Chris Gregoire signed.
He and other tax foes in his camp have filed initiatives to repeal six of the taxes passed by the Legislature in its special session. The story said they had filed initiatives to repeal most of the taxes, and that’s numerically incorrect. The Legislature raised 17 taxes, so their initiatives only cover about a third of them.
Through various initiatives, Eyman et al want to repeal the new soda tax, the bottled water tax, the beer tax, the candy tax, the cigarette tax and the service industry business and occupation tax increase.
While these are the most recognizable (some might say notorious) tax changes coming out of the special session, there are about a dozen other smaller ones, such as the clarification of taxes on electricity from Public Utility Districts, taxes for officers of a failed limited liability corporation or the end to the sales tax exemption for handling livestock nutrients at dairies.
In terms of dollar figures, they are seeking to repeal taxes that would provide more than half of the new revenues the state expects to collect. But that’s different than “most of the taxes,” which is the phrase used in the item.
OLYMPIA – There was no drama, but plenty of theatrics, as Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill Wednesday making it easier for the Legislature to raise taxes.
Gregoire signed a 16-month suspension of some provisions of Initiative 960 as its prime sponsor Tim Eyman looked on, sometimes with a disapproving frown on his face, at one point holding his nose and pointing one thumb down.
“Now, you must behave,” Gregoire told Eyman at one point.
“I am behaving. This is my self-control,” he replied.
OLYMPIA — Tim Eyman, the prime sponsor of Initiative 960, warned “citizens are watching arrogant Democrats who think the law doesn’t apply to them.”
This bill means you are above the Constitution. Voters have made clear that if state government is going to raise taxes, it must be a two-thirds vote or a vote of the people. You’re violating the law, you’re sidestepping the constitution … and believe the voters don’t have a right to know what you’re doing.”
The system is working, he said: “If you can’t get two-thirds of your colleagues to sign on to the bill, put it before the voters. You haven’t even done that.”
“Drop this stuff about the transparency provisions. The two-thirds is bad enough.”
Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, told Eyman the Legislature has to balance many things, including the need for revenue as well as the need.for spending.
“You’ve talked about one side, as you usually do. I’d like you to speak about the other side.”
Voters passed an initiative requiring performance audits, Eyman said.
“You’re not answering my question,” Kline said.
OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats formally proposed this afternoon a plan to suspend the super majority required to raise taxes through the middle of 2011 and make other permanent changes to the tax-limiting initiative voters approved two years ago
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, called Initiative 960 a “straightjacket on our state in a time of economic crisis” and a requirement that gives a minority the ability to obstruct the Legislature.
Senate Bill 6843 would suspend through June 2011 the requirement that all tax increases must pass with a two-thirds majority, and make a simple majority the permanent rule for any tax increase needed to carry out a policy approved by voters in an initiative that didn’t come with its own source of taxes.
The most obvious examples of the latter would be money needed for smaller classroom sizes and for pay raises for teachers, which were both passed in voter initiatives in 2000 but have been suspended in tight state budgets.
It also would allow the Legislature to “clarify legislative intent” on tax policy if the state Supreme Court were to interpret the law as not allowing a particular tax or tax exemption. That’s significant in light of a court decision last fall that ruled against a tax for Dot Foods, an out of state supplier. That ruling is estimated to drop state tax revenues by $137 million per year.
Sen. Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, said the proposal was a prelude to raising taxes to bail out poor state budget decisions of the past. “It creates a climate of fear and apprehension that will only quash job creation and put more people out of work.”
Democrats have talked of their intentions to suspend the super majority since before the session began and Republicans have talked just as long that such a move would flaunt the will of the people.
Republicans have introduced a bill to “reaffirm” the two-thirds majority and initiative sponsor Tim Eyman has already begun gathering signatures on a ballot measure asking voters to reinstate the super majority in November. He and other co-sponsors filed the initiative on the first day of the legislative session.
The bill is one of two proposals being discussed by Democrats looking for a way around the two-thirds majority requirement imposed in I-960. The other would be to repeal it entirely, Brown said.
The bill has a title that some might regard as “high-faluting.” It is official called “Preserving essential public services by temporarily suspending the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases and permanently modifying provisions of Initiative Measure No. 960 for improved efficiency and consistency with state budgeting.”
The bill will get a hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee Thursday afternoon, and likely come to the Senate floor sometime next week, Brown said.