Thursday, April 15, 2010

Clockwork Eyman

Posted By on Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 6:15 PM

click to enlarge eyman.jpg

It's practically a scientific law. 

Stimulus: The legislature passes new taxes. 

Response: Tim Eyman.

Actually, in this case the response came before the stimulus. Days before the budget passed officially, the anti-tax pro-initiative crusader called up the Washington code reviser's office and asked they release a list of the upcoming taxes. Before it had passed officially, Eyman had faxed a wave of new initiatives drafts to debunk them.

First, Eyman says, the legislature suspended Initiative 960 (an Eyman Classic), which required a two-thirds vote to raise taxes.

Then, they passed a budget introduced 23 new taxes or tax increases, intended to make up $800 million of the $2.8 billion budget gap.

Eyman's against six of those. He doesn't like the taxes targeted at specific items — candy, cigarettes, beer, soda and bottled water — and the taxes target at specific industries, like hairdressers, lawyers and real estate agents.

He says those types of taxes hurt the poor.  

"Democrats always say they’re against our regressive tax system, and here they are making it more regressive," Eyman says.

But it's not like Washington has a progressive tax option, state Senator Lisa Brown (D-Spokane) says.

Eliminate those taxes and kiss about $80 million of state revenue goodbye.

"I would gladly pay a quarter more on a six-pack of pop or beer knowing we would keep funding for [things like] Spokane schools," state Senator Lisa Brown (D-Spokane) says. The constituents that call her, she says, are worried more about service cuts than small tax increases.

Eyman would prefer the budget gap be closed instead, by withdrawing from the $500 million surplus or by taking the advice of the state auditor, who he says has identified $3.5 billion in potential savings.

Simultaneously, he's trying to push for Initiative 1053, which would renew the two-thirds-vote requirement for raising taxes for at least two more years.

To get his initiatives on the ballot all Eyman has to do is collect 241,153 valid signatures by July 2. Normally, he could nix the legislation with a referendum, which would require half the signatures to get on the ballot. But since the legislature slapped on an "emergency" clause onto the budget legislation, referendums aren't allowed.

"They did a pretty good job to try to sabotage [voter challenges]," Eyman says. It will be several weeks of wrangling legal text and gauging public support before the petitions are even printed. That's why he started so early.

So is Eyman, master of the Washington initiative, confident his current initiative salvo get on the ballot? Not at all.

"I’m never confident about any initiative we ever do," Eyman says. "It's astronomically difficult."

On the other hand, a whole lot of voters are awfully fond of candy and beer.


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