By Jerry Cornfield Herald Writer
Initiative promoter Tim Eyman’s latest anti-tax measure isn’t going to the ballot this fall.
That’s because the Mukilteo man never gathered signatures for the measure he touted for months as a step toward getting a two-thirds requirement for raising taxes written into the state constitution.
Today is the deadline to turn in petitions to the Secretary of State to get initiatives on the November ballot.
“We’ll be doing it in a different cycle,” he said of the measure he predicted in April would incite the “Super Bowl” of battles on taxes. He loaned his political committee $250,000 for the effort and now will go about getting it back.
Eyman says he never intended to circulate petitions until the Legislature adjourned. When lawmakers finally finished it was too late to start and since they didn’t raise many taxes it wasn’t immediately needed, he said.
“We had to find out what would happen in the legislative session. They just ran out the clock,” he said. “We think on taxes, the Legislature scored an A-. But Olympia’s appetite for tax increases has not ended; it’s only been suspended. The battle for tax increases will heat up again next year.”
Andrew Villeneuve, executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, isn’t buying Eyman’s explanation.
“I think the reason he doesn’t do an initiative is financial. He didn’t have the money,” said Villeneuve, a vocal critic of Eyman measures since he founded the progressive think tank in 2003. “The only way he was going to get to the ballot was with corporate cash and that wasn’t coming.”
Eyman’s decision means this will be the first time since 1989 that no individual or group qualified an initiative directly to the November ballot.
There will be at least two initiatives before voters this fall; however both arrived via a more circuitous route as initiatives to the Legislature.
Backers of I-517 dealing with initiative reforms and I-522 requiring labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms collected signatures in 2012 and asked the Legislature earlier this year to adopt them in lieu of a vote. When that didn’t happen, both automatically were qualified for the ballot.
Eyman is a sponsor of Initiative 517 but insisted this week he’s not involved in the campaign to pass it.
I-517 seeks to extend the time period for collecting signatures by six months. Current law requires initiatives to the people to be filed 10 months before the election — in other words, in January — and to have signatures collected by early July. That results in a signature-gathering period of about six months.
The initiative would let proponents file 16 months before an election, providing roughly a year until signatures were due.
Initiative 522 would require labels on all food products that are genetically engineered or contain genetically engineered ingredients. No label would be needed on products grown or produced without genetically modified organisms.
What this means is, for example, that certain varieties of corn and wheat grown from scientifically created seed stock will need labels. And snack foods such as chips and soft drinks that contain artificial ingredients would need labels starting in July 2015.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org.