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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control: Eyman coffers already in six figures for next year’s initiative

OLYMPIA - Perennial initiative activist Tim Eyman has lined up $650,000 for a possible ballot measure drive, even though he can’t file the actual proposal and begin collecting signatures for at least a month.

Eyman received loans of $600,000 from Vancouver-area investment CEO Ken Fisher and another $50,000 from Yakima businessman Mark Needham for a proposal he calls “Tougher To Raise Taxes.” Eyman can’t file the real initiative to the people until after the first of the year, but as previously reported, he filed a practice measure as an initiative to the Legislature last month.

The proposal would require any new tax increase to expire after one year unless it was approved by two-thirds of the Legislature or a majority of voters.

That was way too late to gather the 246,000-plus signatures needed to submit a proposed law to the Legislature for the 2016 session. But filing the dummy legislative initiative allowed him to start collecting money in 2015.

That generated the loans from Fisher, who gave Eyman & Company $100,000 for this year’s campaign for I-1366, and is a regular donor to Republican Party funds. Needham has also contributed to previous Eyman efforts, but generally not more than a couple hundred dollars at a time.

I-1366, which requires the Legislature to pass a constitutional amendment requiring super-majority votes on taxes or face a drop in the sales tax, passed in November. But as expected it has been challenged in court. Should the courts uphold that initiative, Eyman has said he’d drop the new one.

Tax revenues making a comeback

Like a majority of states, Washington is collecting more money from taxes than it was before the recession hit. Idaho isn’t yet.

A study by Pew Charitable Trusts said Washington and 28 other states have seen their tax revenue come back from the trough most fell into during and shortly after the recession. That’s the first time a majority of states can say that.

Washington and Idaho both hit their peaks for tax revenue in mid-2007, and began a slide that continued for about three years. At the deepest point in the decline, Idaho’s quarterly revenue was down about 20 percent, from about $1 billion per quarter to about $800 million. Washington’s was down about 15 percent, from $5.1 billion to $4.3 billion. Nationally, quarterly tax revenues dropped about 13 percent at the lowest point. Washington revenues came back above pre-recession levels in the first quarter of this year, almost two years after the nation as a whole, and were up 5.6 percent as of mid-2015. Idaho’s tax revenues are at their highest post-recession point, but still down about 6 percent from mid-2007.

More educated, but are they smarter?

You may not realize it from the things they do, or the way the media reports on them, but legislators on average are far more educated than their voters, on average.

That’s from a recent survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures, which also found that the percentage of farmers, lawyers and businesspeople has gone down since 1975, while the percentage of consultants or other professionals, and those who say being a legislator is their main job, has gone up.

The educational level of legislators varies pretty widely among the states, researchers said. Based on the survey, 43 percent of Washington’s lawmakers have advanced degrees and 35 percent have bachelor’s degrees, compared to 12 percent and 21 percent in the state as a whole. While 63 percent of the state’s adults have less than a college degree, only 3.4 percent of legislators don’t have one of those diplomas.

In Idaho, the disparities are similar. Among its legislators, 37 percent have advanced degrees and 34 percent have bachelor’s degrees, while the numbers for adults in the state as a whole are 8 percent and 17 percent. Only about 4 percent of Idaho lawmakers don’t have a college degree, compared to 75 percent of the state.

(Math note: The numbers for legislators doesn’t add to 100 percent because the survey wasn’t able to confirm educational levels for all lawmakers in all states.)

Despite the declines over the last 40 years, people who list their occupation as business are still the largest share, at 30 percent, down from 36 percent. Lawyers are second, at just over 14 percent, but that’s down from 22 percent.

No calls for a rope. Yet.

Not long ago, a salsa company had a successful commercial that disparaged the Big Apple. You may recall a group of cowboys sitting around a campfire, asking the cook where the sauce came from, checking the label discovering it came from “New York CITY!”

Get a rope, says one.

Apparently the problem does not work in reverse for politicians. U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, has been featured in several stories about the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Most recently he is quoted in the new edition of The New Yorker magazine in a long article about the split in the House.

It should also be noted that U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, is becoming a pretty regular guest on Wolf Blitzer’s show on CNN. True, that’s coming from Atlanta, not New York City. But some of Risch’s constituents may think the letters stand for Communist News Network.

Spin Control, a weekly column by political reporter Jim Camden, also appears online with daily items and reader comments at blogs/spincontrol.

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