Eyman files a 'Super Bowl' anti-tax initiative in WA
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) Initiative promoter Tim Eyman filed a ballot measure Wednesday to make all tax hikes passed by the Washington state Legislature expire after a year.
Under the initiative, the one-year limit would go away if state lawmakers pass a constitutional amendment to require a legislative supermajority to raise taxes and eliminate tax breaks. If passed by the Legislature by a two-thirds majority in each chamber, the amendment would need a simple majority of voters to be enacted.
The initiative comes in the wake of a Washington Supreme Court ruling in February which found that a previous Eyman-promoted initiative requiring a legislative supermajority to pass a tax increase violated the state's constitution.
Eyman has run anti-tax ballot initiative measures since the 1990's. He has repeatedly seen his supermajority-for-tax-increases initiatives overturned by the Legislature two years after their passage, once lawmakers could do so by a simple majority vote. He said that it was "silly" of him to have kept pursuing those initiatives every other year. The Supreme Court's ruling spurred him to pursue a permanent solution, he said.
"Those were all the scrimmages," said Eyman. "This one's the Super Bowl."
Hugh Spitzer, a University of Washington law professor specializing in state constitutional law, said he doesn't think the initiative passes legal muster.
"My hunch is the (Washington Supreme) Court would find a blanket limit on all tax increases would be inconsistent with a number of decisions they've made about trying to limit the fundamental processes of the Legislature through initiatives rather than with a constitutional amendment," Spitzer said.
Opponents of the initiative say it is a simplistic way of dealing with tax policy that would make it difficult for lawmakers to write two-year budgets and would starve the state of funding needed to help students, the poor, the aged and the infirm.
"The only way this initiative gets on the ballot is if corporations line up to give Eyman big bucks to make this thing a reality," said Andrew Villeneuve, executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute. "That's what happened in 2012. That's what happened in 2010."
Eyman conceded that lawmakers could use the same tactic they've used to override his previous initiatives. But he said he was confident that the provisions in this initiative will be sufficiently unpalatable to lawmakers to move them to pass the constitutional amendment he seeks.
The initiative would also put a non-binding advisory vote on whether the Legislature should pass the supermajority-for-tax increases constitutional amendment on the ballot each November.
And it would require that lawmakers' votes to increase taxes be listed below their photographs in state-issued voters' pamphlets.
"I believe the Legislature is going to feel it is better to say, 'you know what, voters have earned the right to vote,'" Eyman said.
He and his allies will have to hustle to get their initiative on the November ballot. The initiative needs 246,372 signatures eight percent of the votes cast in last year's governor's race and Eyman and his allies will likely only have about seven weeks to gather them. The deadline for turning in signatures to the Secretary of State's office is July 5, and it usually takes three weeks from handing in the initiative to getting permission to start signature-gathering.
Eyman said he expects to use both volunteers and paid signature collectors, as he has done in previous initiative campaigns.
Eyman is a polarizing figure in Olympia and beyond, with many Republican lawmakers supporting his efforts to rein in taxes while most Democrats see him as putting undue limits on lawmakers.
AP writer Jonathan Kaminsky can be contacted at https://www.twitter.com/jekaminsky
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.