Voters pass I-722 but reject I-745

By HUNTER T. GEORGE

Associated Press

SEATTLE — The Mukilteo watch salesman who sponsored last year’s tax-slashing Initiative 695 prevailed again when Washington voters approved the sequel on Tuesday.

Initiative 722, Tim Eyman’s move to repeal and refund 1999 tax increases and limit future property tax increases, was up 61 percent to 39 percent with 21 percent of precincts reporting.

But Eyman’s second offering on the ballot, I-745, failed. It trailed 55 percent to 45 percent. That measure would have shifted transit funding to highway construction and maintenance.

Eyman noted that I-722 was winning by a bigger margin than I-695 won with last year.

"It’s incredibly gratifying to know the voters are still with us, and if anything, we’re gaining more converts to the cause," Eyman said in an interview.

He predicted I-722 will withstand legal challenges and might even be put into law by lawmakers feeling the pressure from voters frustrated with high taxes.

I-745, he said, succeeded in focusing the attention of Gov. Gary Locke and other leaders on the state’s worsening traffic gridlock, and the need to do something about it.

"Gary Locke says his top legislative priority of the 2001 session is transportation. That never would have happened without 745," Eyman said.

Elsewhere on the ballot, animal-welfare activists asked voters to ban certain body-gripping traps by approving I-713. The measure was leading 54 percent to 46 percent.

And the Legislature offered Senate Joint Resolution 8214, a constitutional amendment designed to help secure financial stability for the developmentally disabled. Voters approved it 65 percent to 35 percent.

Eyman made his mark last year with I-695, which slashed automobile license taxes by $750 million a year and attempted to require a public vote before any taxes or government fees could be increased. He was bruised last month when the state Supreme Court ruled that I-695 was unconstitutional.

I-722 was a follow-up that Eyman dubbed "Son of 695," due in part to a feature that would repeal and refund tax and fee increases imposed by local government officials during the latter half of 1999.

The state budget office identified $106 million in taxes and fees imposed by cities and counties last year, but none by state government. Special school levies and other voter-approved taxes were exempt.

I-722 also included two other provisions: rolling back property valuations to January 1999 levels and capping annual increases at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. The current limit is 6 percent, not counting voter-approved special levies.

State budget analysts pegged the revenue loss to state and local programs — and the savings to the property owner — at $376 million during the two-year budget cycle that begins next summer.

With I-745, Eyman offered a seemingly simple solution to worsening traffic congestion: Build more roads.

The initiative, probably the hottest of seven statewide measures on the ballot, featured a requirement that at least 90 percent of state and local transportation funds be spent on roads, including new construction and maintenance. It was strongly backed by the road-paving industry.

The measure included a sales tax exemption for highway projects and a requirement for the state auditor to study the effectiveness of every state and local transportation program.

Critics said the plan would devastate local transit agencies, add to pollution and make traffic congestion even worse.

The same animal-rights activists who sponsored a successful 1996 measure that outlawed hunting with hounds wrote I-713 to ban the use of certain body-gripping traps to capture animals for recreation or fur-trading.

The Humane Society of the United States, the primary sponsor, said the practices are cruel and outdated.

Sporting groups opposing the measure said I-713 would hamper the ability to control pests, conduct disease research and protect endangered species. They said the initiative was driven by a national political agenda, not science.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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