Eyman unveils newest initiative


Herald Writer

Showing stamina that would make a marathon-runner envious, Tim Eyman on Tuesday unveiled the first of two new initiatives aimed at giving voters more direct control over tax increases.

The announcement came just a week after the Mukilteo businessman finished campaigning for two initiatives on the November ballot, and one year after voters approved yet another Eyman creation, Initiative 695.

These latest measures are designed to revive the tax controls first approved in I-695, but struck down by the state Supreme Court in October, Eyman said.

"Very clearly the voters have voted for the same principles two years in a row. If politicians are going to take more of people’s money, they need to ask for permission first," he said.

Eyman first put that motto forth in support of I-695, which replaced the state car tax with a $30 fee and required voter approval of nearly all tax and fee increases in the state.

The new version, titled "The Right to Vote on Taxes Initiative," would impose similar requirements on local governments. Eyman said he would unveil one applying to state government Thursday.

The latest proposal immediately drew criticism from opponents of the earlier effort.

Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel said voter control over tax increases already exists, because voters can turn out politicians who back unpopular tax increases. But putting every tax and fee increase to a public vote would be costly and cumbersome, he said.

"It is nonsensical to believe that the costs of doing business would not just be vastly increased by the requirement to have elections. And to what end?" he said.

The new initiatives are the latest salvo in Eyman’s ongoing fight with governments and private organizations over the fate of the initiatives. Eyman had promised to revive the voter approval issue shortly after the court decision on I-695. Some Republican state lawmakers have also vowed to push a similar proposal in the coming legislative session.

A number of cities, including Seattle, Burien, Carnation and Bainbridge Island, have already filed suit to block Initiative 722. Washington voters overwhelmingly backed the property-tax-limiting initiative in the Nov. 7 election. Initiative 745, Eyman’s attempt to shift more money to road building, was defeated.

The Seattle City Council also defied I-722 Monday, approving an increase in property-tax collections above the initiative’s limits.

Eyman predicted such maneuvers, or any other tax increases, would only bolster support for his newest plan.

"Is there even an ounce of doubt in any elected official’s mind that the voters are going to approve this thing?" he said.

Eyman declined to say how his initiative for state taxes would get around the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that requiring voter approval of state tax increases violated the state constitution.

The court’s decision left open the possibility that such approval could still be required for local governments, said Hugh Spitzer, a University of Washington law professor and expert in state constitutional law. He represented several water utilities in the challenge to I-695 and represents Bainbridge Island in its I-722 challenge.

"Basically, they say it may well be that a statute could impose voter approval requirements on local governments," he said.

The two initiatives will initially be to the Legislature, Eyman said. That gives him a Dec. 29 deadline to collect nearly 180,000 signatures for each one. The Legislature can either approve such an initiative, or put it before voters either unchanged or with amendments.

In the past, Eyman has used this period to test-run his initiatives, then proposed updated versions for initiatives to the people. Those go directly to the ballot if they collect enough signatures.

Eyman said he would soon begin lobbying supporters to back his latest measures. A fund-raising letter will go out Thursday saying, "Hey guys, we need to raise a whole lot of money," Eyman said.

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