Interest groups are out to silence voters

  • By Tim Eyman
  • Saturday, June 9, 2007 9:00pm
  • Opinion

Over the years, of the nine initiatives we’ve qualified for the ballot, the voters have approved seven of them, a pretty extraordinary track record of support. Opponents of our initiatives, most of whom feed at the public trough, are incredibly frustrated that they’ve been so ineffective at convincing the voters to reject our initiatives. These “Public Interest GroupS” (hereafter referred to as PIGS) have spent millions upon millions of dollars and yet, that hasn’t stopped the voters from supporting our efforts to lower vehicle tab taxes, limit the growth of property taxes, institute independent performance audits of state and local governments, protect the initiative process, and require more public participation in tax increase decisions.

So the PIGS have come up with a new strategy: end democracy.

The PIGS have gone to court to prevent a public vote on Initiative 960, our initiative for 2007. It’s really an extraordinary request – they want a judge to take away the people’s right to vote.

Our state Constitution guarantees the citizens the right to vote on initiatives that submit enough valid voter signatures by the deadline. The voters’ right to vote shouldn’t be taken away just because a bunch of PIGS don’t like the initiative.

I-960’s proposed policies are well within the purview of the initiative process. For decades, there have been initiatives addressing taxes. For the PIGS to claim that I-960 is not a legitimate initiative for the voters to consider is insulting. The voters are perfectly capable of understanding I-960’s policies and they do not need the PIGS’ censorship.

We’re very proud of I-960. We worked very hard to draft it carefully, in full compliance with, and mindful of, our state’s laws, Constitution, and recent court rulings. We had the benefit of brilliant, experienced attorneys and activists intimately familiar with these issues. As it turns out, we went through 14 drafts of the initiative (all of which are available on the Secretary of State’s website) before settling on the final language that is now contained in I-960.

But their lawsuit has less to do with I-960 then it does the people’s right to discuss and debate issues. Initiative campaigns are not just about passing laws – they are about informing and involving the people in a discussion over public policy. They provide a way for the voters to communicate with their elected representatives and express their opinions directly on issues.

Recently, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that lawsuits to keep initiatives off the ballot aren’t valid because, among other reasons, they undermine the First Amendment. “Because ballot measures are often used to express popular will and to send a message to elected representatives, preelection review may also unduly infringe on free speech values.”

The PIGS have misread, mischaracterized and misinterpreted many aspects of I-960. Their legal brief is filled with inaccuracies. We’re confident the attorney general will highlight these errors to the court.

We are especially amused with the PIGS’ assertion that I-960’s policies “will never become law.” Much of the language of I-960 is current law. For example, current law requires two-thirds legislative approval for a tax increase (this requirement has been on the books for 13 years thanks to voter-approved Initiative 601; the two-thirds requirement was reenacted by the 1998 Legislature and reenacted again by the 2005 Legislature). Here’s another example: the Constitution already gives the Legislature the power to put a tax increase on the ballot (the most recent example being Referendum 51, the $8 billion transportation tax increase, put on the ballot by the 2002 Legislature). But even though these policies are current law, the public will benefit from learning about them and being given the opportunity to show their support for them if I-960 qualifies for the ballot.

But I-960 doesn’t just highlight and clarify current laws; it also includes some new policies. I-960’s sunshine provisions and advisory vote policies put a bright spotlight on Olympia by requiring wide dissemination of reports on the cost and status of bills increasing taxes, including legislators’ voting records and contact information. It cannot be illegal or unconstitutional for the voters to be told what their government is doing.

The Taxpayer Protection Initiative I-960 is a smart, reasonable, comprehensive proposal that addresses some very serious issues. If enough voter signatures are submitted by the July 6 deadline, the voters are constitutionally guaranteed the right to discuss it, debate it and vote on it. That right should not be taken away by anyone, especially PIGS who feed at the public trough and who clearly don’t trust the voters.

Tim Eyman is the co-sponsor of the Taxpayer Protection Initiative I-960. Contact him at 425-493-8707. More information:

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