Tim Eyman wants to fight again for two-thirds tax requirement

The initiative promoter hopes to pressure the Legislature into a constitutional amendment. But his plan is, well, complex.
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Tim Eyman

The initiative promoter hopes to pressure the Legislature into a constitutional amendment. But his plan is, well, complex.

Tim Eyman wants the public to install laws to pressure the Washington Legislature to allow a referendum on a constitutional amendment to require a super-majority vote for tax hikes. Eyman wants to have the state constitution specify that a two-thirds-majority is needed to add any state taxes.

Eyman announced Monday that he will begin collecting signatures on a complicated ballot proposal to take to voters in either November or in 2014.

The proposed ballot measure would:

  • Require a statewide advisory ballot each year on whether the public supports such a constitutional amendment.
  • Limit the time period of all tax increases, all tax extensions and all repeals of tax exemptions to one year.
  • Require that all legislators' votes  on tax increases, tax exemptions and tax extensions to be noted on all state voters' pamphlets. The requirement would also apply to the governor's record.
  • Eliminate these requirements when the Legislature agrees to send a two-thirds-majority-for-tax-matter ballot to a public referendum.

The proposed petition raises questions of whether a referendum binds future legislation to a one-year limit, and whether all the planks in this proposal are part of one measure or several measures. A public ballot can have no more than one issue on it.

The Washington Attorney General's office declined to comment on those legal questions Monday, citing its practice of not commenting on pending legislation or ballot measures. "It all has to do with state tax measures," Eyman said in defense of the multiple facets within the proposed measure.

Eyman pointed to efforts by Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, to vet proposed and existing tax exemptions on their effectiveness, as well as putting time limits for the exemptions to remain in effect before renewal. "That same level of scrutiny should apply to tax increases," Eyman said.

Eyman of Mukilteo is a professional initiative promoter and usually has one or two measures on each November ballot. His Monday announcement included a call for donations.

He is undecided whether he will seek a November ballot or seek having the Legislature vote on whether to approve or take such a measure to a public ballot in 2014. A November ballot would mean he needs to collect 246,372 signatures and turn them in to the Washington Secretary of State's office by July 5. The legislative route would give him all year to collect the signatures.

Eyman has pushed anti-tax public ballots since the 1990s. He has had several successful measures to require any tax increases to be passed by two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate — measures that the Legislature always nullified after two years, which is legal. Two months ago, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the two-thirds requirement is unconstitutional, meaning only a public referendum can be used to add a two-thirds requirement to the constitution. And only the Legislature can set that process in motion.

For exclusive coverage of the state Legislature, check out Crosscut's Olympia 2013 page.


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at johnstang_8@hotmail.com and on Twitter at @johnstang_8