Tim Eyman: Democrats shouldn't repeat 2010 tax-hike debacle in 2015

Guest Opinion: Have voters have changed their minds on higher taxes? The initiative guru on what happened the last time Olympia went "hog wild" raising taxes.
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Tim Eyman

Guest Opinion: Have voters have changed their minds on higher taxes? The initiative guru on what happened the last time Olympia went "hog wild" raising taxes.

"Definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."  That saying is particularly appropriate regarding Democratic legislators' current talk about raising taxes.

A history lesson is needed.

In 2009, we had a setback: The tax initiative that I and my supporters proposed that year didn't succeed.

A November 2009 oped published in the Times was entitled "End of Tim Eyman era signals opportunities for reform." The guest columnist wrote: "Tim Eyman may be finished." And, he suggested, "Eyman has cast a dark shadow over this state in the 12 years that he has been writing initiatives that locked down government spending, imposed supermajority rules on the Legislature and banned affirmative action. The Legislature has been hamstrung by his successful initiatives and paralyzed by fear that he will launch others."

He went on suggest that "the shadow" might be lifting, noting over the previous five years two of our measures had passed, two had been defeated and two failed to qualify for the ballot. He concluded: "It is time for our leaders to stop being afraid of the Eyman shadow and get to work solving problems."

His advice? Raise taxes. 

The Democrat-dominated Legislature and their allies certainly followed that advice, going hog wild in 2010. They immediately repealed our Initiative 960 passed by voters in 2007, which had protected taxpayers in 2008 and 2009 by making it tougher to raise taxes. They then raised taxes $7.1 billion. Bill Gates Sr., Nick Hanauer and Big Labor even pushed for a new state income tax with Initiative 1098. 

What was the response to their tax-hiking pig-out? A gargantuan coalition rose up against I-1098's state income tax scheme and voters crushed it at the polls. The soda pop industry challenged the Democrats' assault on the middle class and sponsored I-1107, which voters overwhelmingly passed.

We resurrected the two-thirds-for-taxes vote requirement with Initiative 1053 and — thanks to a $250,000 loan from a second mortgage on my house and strong business and citizen support — our initiative qualified for the ballot. Nearly two-thirds of voters passed it. And voters in swing districts voted out of office seven to nine Democrats, laying the groundwork for the eventual takeover in the state Senate by the Majority Coalition Caucus. 

The voters in November 2010 unambiguously repudiated the tax-hiking binge.

The Democrats' hubris in raising taxes was a direct result of assuming that, because one of our initiatives didn't succeed, it meant that the voters had suddenly changed their minds and were now clamoring for tax hikes. It was dumb and they paid a heavy price for it.

I'm watching it happen all over again. 

The Times' column a week ago was a carbon copy of that 2009 column. The staff columnist this time wrote “Is Tim Eyman through?” and referred to "planning for A.E. (after Eyman)."

Democrats running for legislative seats are clearly signaling massive tax increases next year. As reported in The Columbian last month: “(Democrat leader) State Rep. Jim Moeller is already predicting the sticking point that will keep lawmakers in Olympia next June: raising the sales tax by one penny or by two." Talk of a new state income tax is everywhere, as are pushes for higher business taxes and bigger property taxes.

The Legislature is on track to make the same mistake they made in 2010.

The lawmakers are ignoring the fact that our tougher-to-raise-taxes Initiative 1185 in 2012 received more votes than any initiative in state history. Those 1.9 million voters are still there, dominating the 44 of 49 legislative districts outside Seattle. 

Our initiatives flourish when Olympia refuses to listen. Democratic politicians should learn from their 2010 tax-hiking debacle and not make that egregious mistake again in 2015. To avoid an inevitable and certain business and citizen revolt, Olympia should not raise taxes next year and instead make do — so to speak — with the nearly $3 billion in increased tax revenue the state's projections confirm they’ll have for the next budget cycle. Prioritize spending using existing revenue; it’s what the people clearly want.

These are tough, tough times. Families are struggling. Businesses are too. Imposing higher taxes and fees will only make our bad economy worse. No government has ever taxed itself to prosperity. 

Because Olympia’s tax appetite is insatiable, we are committed to continuing our fight to protect taxpayers. 


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