Tim Eyman has become Washington’s garbage barge for bad ideas in state politics.
His latest load is actually a blackmail scheme masquerading as an initiative.
Initiative 1366 threatens to tie our Legislature in knots and make a hopeless tangle out of the state budget.
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I-1366 demands that state legislators approve an amendment to the Washington Constitution that would require two-thirds super-majority votes in the Legislature to raise any tax. If they don’t, $1.4 billion a year in sales taxes – or $8 billion over the next few budget cycles – will be cut.
If lawmakers obey self-appointed King Tim and his followers by putting the amendment on the ballot, the sales-tax cut won’t happen.
This super-majority rule is something that state courts have struck down with previous Eyman measures, and they may well strike this one down, too – if voters approve I-1366.
Eyman is engaged in this desperate blackmail scheme because he has failed to get the super-majority legislative vote needed to qualify a constitutional amendment for the ballot.
I-1366 is undemocratic. In essence, under I-1366 just 17 anti-tax senators could thwart the majority's will and block any change to tax law that didn't involve a tax cut.
To get even a tiny tax increase passed would require a two-thirds super-majority – or 33 votes in the Senate plus 66 in the House – which is a tall order.
In fact, getting that level of support for increasing taxes would be as rare as Eyman telling the truth about one of his initiatives.
If Eyman succeeds and lawmakers fail to knuckle under, the cuts would be devastating at a time when the Legislature is already on the hook to significantly increase funding for K-12 schools in response to a Supreme Court contempt order.
This scheme comes straight from a lifelong salesman, Eyman, who stands accused by state Public Disclosure Commission of asking for – and illegally accepting for secret personal and political uses – more than $308,000 in kickbacks from the same signature firms who collected signatures for many of his past measures.
Voters need to think this one through.
State taxes are not out of control. Washington ranks in the bottom third of states (36th) in terms of tax burden per $1,000 of income (state and local taxes), and the tax burden is lower than in past years.
What’s wrong is who ends up paying taxes. Washington is worst in the nation for the unequal way that the tax burden falls most heavily on low- and middle-income families, while a lighter load rests on those of greater means.
I-1366 would make it even harder, if not impossible, to fix this inequity. Tax reform might be dead until there really was some kind of a revolution.
If I-1366 passes and lawmakers can’t agree on new revenue, then higher education and health care programs for the poor and elderly would be among the first targets for cuts. But the pain would surely spread to state prisons, parks, and eventually public schools.
The ones who gain the most from the initiative are Eyman, who gets paid, and special interests who get better protection in the tax code.
Voters should keep Washington’s options open. Please take this barge load to a deep place in the ocean and sink it. Vote against Initiative 1366 on Nov. 3.