Professional initiative promoter Tim Eyman was back at the Capitol this week, filing the yearly initiative from which he makes a living. This time Eyman’s is reviving his proposal for a two-thirds vote requirement for legislative tax hikes, which the Supreme Court ruled last year was unconstitutional. Eyman’s solution: cut the state’s sales tax rate by a penny in mid-April 2015 unless the Legislature agrees to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot.
"It's elegant, legal and easy to explain. Either they let us vote – which costs them nothing – or we get the largest tax cuts in Washington state history,'' Eyman told a handful of reporters at the Office of the Secretary of State, where he paid his $5 filing fee and handed in his proposal late Monday morning (link is updated).
As Eyman described it, the sales tax cut would take effect in 2015, reducing the state rate by a penny to 5.5 cents on a one-dollar purchase. That would cut $1 billion a year from state revenues - unless lawmakers agreed by April 15, 2015, to send the constitutional amendment to voters.
Critics are bound to question Eyman’s focus on cutting taxes at a time the state Supreme Court has said the Legislature needs to find billions of dollars more for K-12 public schools over the next few years. Update: Andrew Villaneuve of the Northwest Progressive Institute put out a news release equating Eyman's tactic with that of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz who was willing to shut down the U.S. government over Obamacare.
But Eyman clearly sees taxes as a bigger problem facing the state than finding ways to pay for schools. And he is frustrated enough with the Legislature’s unwillingness to put a two-thirds tax vote law in the Constitution that he’s willing to hold a major source of tax revenues as hostage.
He said that because both the tax cut and two-thirds vote question deal with state revenues, he thinks his idea can pass legal muster and avoid violating the single-subject rule that has legally sunk some of his past creations. Eyman needs 246,372 valid voter signatures by July 5 to qualify for the Nov. 4 ballot.
Voters rejected Eyman's ballot measure last year, dubbed the initiative on initiatives, which began as an initiative to the Legislature in 2012. That one sought to add protections for signature gatherers – including a 25-foot no hassle bubble around people collecting petition signatures in front of businesses. But it angered many in the business community and drew opposition from former Eyman political friends such as Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Brian Sonntag.
Eyman said he thinks supporters will come back, just as they did before to support the two-thirds tax-vote requirement after he’d run a road-tolling measure that alienated some traditional backers. That is because he thinks the two-thirds measure is popular, getting nearly 64 percent of the vote in 2012 (the fifth time voters have said yes to it, Eyman notes).
"It got more votes than any initiative in state history. 1.9 million people voted for the two-thirds; 1.6 million voted for (Gov.) Jay Inslee. This policy is more popular than the governor himself. And that just shows you the breadth of support this initiative has,'' Eyman said.
Typically Eyman secures a big donor to back his yearly ideas such as oil companies that helped back his 2012 measure. But he doesn’t have a deep-pocket backer for this one. He said he’s just now letting supporters know of his newest idea and need for help.
Update: Villeneuve said he is skeptical that Eyman will get a big money donor this time around. And he took at shot at the state's top initiative promoter's willingness "to threaten the future of Washington's youth. Not once has Tim ever proposed an initiative that would help people. If he wanted, he could direct his energies towards ending homelessness, cleaning up Puget Sound, or ensuring vulnerable populations like the mentally ill get the care they need. But he'd rather burn than build. Instead of contributing to the betterment of our communities, he seeks their destruction."
Meanwhile, the Public Disclosure Commission is continuing its investigation into the way signature gatherers were paid for the initiative on initiatives.
Updates also corrected the date that the proposed tax cut is to begin.