They chew up more space in the Nov. 5 election than anything else by far. But Tim Eyman’s pack of a dozen tax advisory votes, which clutter the state voters pamphlet and the front page of every ballot mailed in Washington this fall, are about as substantial as sugar pills.
The thought of stopping tax increases might give a quick adrenaline rush. But like popping a handful of placebos, these nonbinding votes accomplish nothing; all the taxes approved by the 2019 Legislature will be “maintained” no matter how many voters check the “repealed” box.
The News Tribune Editorial Board advises voters to make quick work of these unnecessary distractions by marking “maintained” on advisory votes No. 20 through 31. Or just leave all 12 boxes blank to identify them as a waste of time and money.
The measures are the remnants of Eyman’s Initiative 960, narrowly approved by Washington voters in 2007. The courts tossed out most of I-960 as unconstitutional, but retained the sugar high of advisory votes: Voters get a chance to blow off steam about every new tax or fee hike adopted in Olympia. And blow off steam, they do; a majority of voters consistently check “repealed.”
The state is also required to publish an annual tax-vote scorecard for each of Washington’s 147 legislators. The list is envisioned as a kind of public shaming by Eyman, Washington’s leading anti-tax activist and shamer in chief.
What’s missing from the advisory votes is context. They don’t mention that the taxes were negotiated by the House, Senate and governor, with input from citizens, in the time-honored system known as American representative democracy.
Viewed separately, the taxes might feel like a series of relentless raids on the public purse. Viewed as a whole, they add up to a biennial state budget that pays for schools, roads and bridges, a safety net for the poor, and other essentials the public has come to expect from government.
Granted, it sometimes can be an ugly process, such as this year’s increase in the B&O tax paid by large, out-of-state banks. Democrats ham-handedly rammed it through at the end of the 2019 session.
If you don’t like it, then do something that actually matters: Vote incumbents out of office.
Eyman, who purports to be the great guardian of taxpayers’ interests, fails to mention what his annual deception campaign costs them. For the 2017 voters pamphlet, printing and distributing the advisory vote material racked up a $160,653 bill for the Secretary of State’s office, according to the Seattle Times. Individual counties also must pay to print, mail and tabulate ballots fattened with advisory votes.
This year, with a record number of advisory votes – four times more than in 2017 – those costs grow exponentially.
For Washingtonians to be asked to take separate votes on a complicated mix of tax increases, from architectural paint to travel agents, is nothing more than a trip to Tim Eyman’s theater of the absurd.
Save yourself time and trouble by voting “maintained” on this year’s 12-pack of propaganda pills — or don’t bite on them at all.