Tim Eyman's revenue-cap measure, Initiative 1033, was losing by double digits with half of the votes counted statewide Tuesday evening.
“We’re going to wait for some more returns coming in, but we’re feeling good and cautiously optimistic about our chances tonight,” No on I-1033 campaign spokesman Scott Whiteaker said after 810,000 votes were counted statewide. No votes outnumbered yes, 56 percent to 44 percent.
Eyman was acknowledging late Tuesday that his measure won’t win at the polls this year.
But he told The Associated Press that Olympia politicians should not take I-1033’s apparent defeat as a message that they should raise taxes. He says 45 percent of voters still agreed with its limit on government.
Initiative 1033 was designed to limit general revenue growth for the state, cities and counties to factors of inflation and population growth. It would have shifted excess revenue each year into property tax reductions the following year – to the tune of $5.9 billion through 2015 at the state level, and by $694 million for counties and $2.1 billion for cities, according to a state government analysis.
Critics said it would cripple government’s ability to keep up with costs of health care and public education or to respond in emergencies. Eyman countered that it was needed to put controls on state lawmakers. He said government has proved unable to limit spending in good times and state lawmakers did away with inflation-based spending limits in 2005.
A somewhat similar taxpayer bill of rights measure in Maine was also failing Tuesday night in early returns.
Eyman, a professional initiative promoter, was overwhelmingly outspent in the campaign. The coalition of labor, business and other groups lined up against him raised close to $3.5 million for a television ad campaign that linked I-1033 with the ill effects of Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which led to falling investments in public schools and health care.
By contrast, Eyman financed his campaign with just over $670,000, most of it spent to qualify the measure for the ballot using paid signature gatherers.
“Interestingly the 1033 campaign is a perfect metaphor for how outgunned the average taxpayer is in the process,” Eyman said in a post-election statement. “Opponents to 1033 were led by the government itself and all the special interest groups, billionaires and millionaires who control and feed off the government.”
The Washington Realtors Association and Mainstream Republicans joined a list of No on 1033 supporters that included public employee unions and Democratic groups that reliably oppose Eyman’s proposals. The state Republican Party was among his high-profile supporters.
Labor was the biggest donor against I-1033: $300,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, $265,000 from Service Employees International Union’s state chapter, $250,000 from the National Education Association and $75,000 from the Washington Federation of State Employees in Olympia.
Eyman’s campaign relied on $300,000 from Mike Dunmire, a retired Woodinville investor, a $250,000 loan against his home, and more than 930 individual contributions.
Kristina Wilfore, executive director for the left-leaning Ballot Initiative Strategy Center in Washington, D.C., said it would be remarkable if I-1033 fails in Washington. She said it and a similar measure in Maine on Tuesday are both the latest versions of Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which voters there adopted in 1992 but suspended temporarily in 2005.
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688