Tag Archives: Initiative 960

Vote “Maintain” on Five Eyman “Tax Advisory Votes”

The Washington State Ballot this November has five tax advisory votes which are very confusing to most people.

These tax advisory votes were put there by  Tim Eyman’s Initiative 960 as his attempt to increase public resentment to any “tax” measures even when they benefit the larger public. The ballot title for each is basically written as an  anti-tax push poll based on Eyman’s ballot title language in Initiative 960 that stipulated the ballot title wording.

They carry no Legislative weight as they only record  voters opinions. In essence they are like a public opinion poll paid for by taxpayers. But Eyman tries to use them to show public opposition to funding public services by wording them such that voters will be inclined to respond negatively to any tax increase. Under Eyman’s definition of tax increases he also includes any efforts by the Legislature to repeal any tax exemptions or tax expenditures even if they are tax loopholes that only benefit special interests and not the general public.

Deciphering the ballot title language is very tricky and confusing. It waspurposely written to try to get voters to vote to repeal any tax increase passed by the Legislature.   And unlike initiatives, the writeup on the so called tax advisory votes  in the voter’s pamphlet contain no explanatory statement, no pro and con statements, and no fiscal impact statement.

In fact the State Attorney General had no real ability to even try to fairly explain the issue in the ballot title since Eyman’s initiative 960 required that the ballot tile be written as:

The legislature imposed, without a vote of the people, (identification of tax and description of increase), costing (most up-to-date ten-year cost projection, expressed in dollars and rounded to the nearest million) in its first ten years, for government spending. This tax increase should be:
Repealed . . .[ ]
Maintained . . .[ ]

I have made bold the mandatory wording required which by itself is intended to encourage people to vote to repeal any “tax increase”.

Both Democrats and Republicans voted by wide margins in the Legislature to approve all 5 of these measures, including to repeal some tax exemptions and fix the inheritance tax exclusion set up by a court decision, to secure revenue to help fund the budget.

Voters should vote to “maintain” these legislative decisions.

Advisory Vote No. 3 (Substitute Senate Bill 5444)

Ballot Title

The legislature eliminated, without a vote of the people, a leasehold excise tax credit for taxpayers who lease publicly-owned property, costing approximately $2,000,000 in the first ten years, for government spending.

This tax increase should be:

[  ]  Repealed

[X  ]  Maintained

 

Advisory Vote No. 4 (Senate Bill 5627)

Ballot Title

The legislature imposed, without a vote of the people, an aircraft excise tax on commuter air carriers in lieu of property tax, costing approximately $500,000 in its first ten years, for government spending.

This tax increase should be:

Repealed   [  ]

Maintained   [ X ]

 

Advisory Vote No. 5 (Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1846)

Ballot Title

The legislature extended, without a vote of the people, the insurance premium tax to some insurance for pediatric oral services, costing an amount that cannot currently be estimated, for government spending.

This tax increase should be:

Repealed   [  ]

Maintained   [X  ]
Advisory Vote No. 6 (Second Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1971)

Ballot Title

The legislature eliminated, without a vote of the people, a retail sales tax exemption for certain telephone and telecommunications services, costing approximately $397,000,000 in the first ten years, for government spending.

This tax increase should be:

Repealed   [  ]

Maintained   [X  ]

 

Advisory Vote No. 7 (Engrossed House Bill 2075)

Ballot Title

The legislature extended, without a vote of the people, estate tax on certain property transfers and increased rates for estates over $4,000,000, costing approximately $478,000,000 in the first ten years, for government spending.

This tax increase should be:

Repealed   [  ]

Maintained   [X  ]

For additional information on these measures see the Washington State Voters Pamphlet which gives links to the actual bills passed by the Legislature. Click on the tab “full text” to read the original bill as passed by the Washington State Legislature.

You can also refer to the statement in the Progressive Voters Guide.

The Tax Advisory Vote requirement  in I-960 is a waste of taxpayer dollars, both in the added costs to print up and tally ballot votes and the extra cost to print up Eyman’s required material in the Voters pamphlet. They represent an abuse of the public electoral process in that they are no more than a biased anti-tax slanted push poll conducted at public expense. The Advisory Tax Vote requirement  in I-960 needs to be either repealed by legislators or the voters.

Tax Advisory Votes Might Not Mean Much But Cost a Lot, Seattle Times, July 16, 2013

Voters to Send Pricey Telegram with Five Tax Advisory Votes -Legislators will get scarlet letter, Erik Smith, Washington State Wire, July 23, 2013

 

 

Tim Eyman’s Libertarian Vision for Washington State

Tim Eyman’s political philosophy for Washington State is libertarian at heart. The problem is that the libertarian vision is no vision at all. Libertarians argue for a minimalist government and this is Tim Eyman’s approach on his initiatives. If one asks who is Tim Eyman most like in his ideas, both Grover Norquist and Ayn Rand come to mind.  There is seemingly no end point in how small government should be or how minimal taxes should be.

As E J Dionne wrote recently in the Washington Post  Libertarianism’s Achilles’ heel is that there is currently no country in the world that is libertarian run. That in itself should give voters pause as they blindly follow Eyman. It is a dead end for our state as education funding and other vital state functions get reduced and reduced until it’s only everyone for themselves.

Thinking about what Eyman’s approach leads to comes to mind because of an article I came across written by Andy Garber of the Seattle Times right before last year’s elections. Eyman’s two thirds vote requirement for the Washington State Legislature had not yet been overturned by the Washington State Supreme Court as unconstitutional. The  article was entitled “State ballots’ new twist: tax advisory votes“.

The article noted that Eyman’s Initiative 960 and and I-1185 on that November’s ballot not only required a 2/3 vote by the legislature to pass taxes but also added a” nonbinding public advisory vote” when lawmakers approved any tax increase no matter by what margin of votes or whose taxes were affected.

By Eyman’s definition repealing a tax loophole was a tax increase, even if the loophole provided no public benefit and transferred tax obligations to others.   In reality tax loopholes are tax expenditures – off budget spending of tax revenue to benefit a special interest or business but without the regular in depth scrutiny other state expenditures get during the regular biennial budget process. And with Eyman all taxes need to be opposed as runaway spending regardless of who pays or for what purpose.

Looking at the two advisory votes on the November 2012 ballot placed there as a result of Eyman’s I-960 and the response by Eyman as to what these votes meant points out the absurdity of Eyman’s libertarian slash taxes in all cases approach to dealing with public issues.

Here is the wording of advisory vote No 2 as set up by Tim Eyman’s language in Initiative 960.

The legislature extended, without a vote of the people, expiration of a tax on possession of petroleum products and reduced the tax rate, costing $24,000,000 in its first ten years, for government spending.
 This tax increase should be:

[  ]  Repealed

[  ]  Maintained

The voting public got no further explanation than the ballot title in the voter’s pamphlet, unlike initiatives and referendum which have an explanatory statement, a fiscal impact statement (not a 10 year cost projection) and no arguments for or against.

In addition the attorney general had no real ability to explain the issue in the ballot title since Eyman’s initiative 960 required that the ballot tile be written as:

The legislature imposed, without a vote of the people, (identification of tax and description of increase), costing (most up-to-date ten-year cost projection, expressed in dollars and rounded to the nearest million) in its first ten years, for government spending. This tax increase should be:
Repealed . . .[ ]
Maintained . . .[ ]‰

I have made bold  the mandatory wording required which by themselves are  intended to encourage people to vote to repeal any “tax increase”.

In the advisory vote No 2, voters voted  “to repeal” this “tax increase” by a vote of 55% to 45%. No campaign was run to urge voters to maintain the “tax increase” because it was only an advisory vote. If one had been run voters might have gotten more information on what this bill really did. The bill SHB 2590 passed the House by 93 yeas, 1 nay and 4 excused.  It passed the Senate by 40 yeas, 0 nays and 9 excused. It was supported by the Washington Oil Marketers Association and the Western States Petroleum Association.

In reality the “petroleum tax” was really an insurance program that particularly benefited all homeowners with underground oil storage tanks from liability caused by oil leaking from a tank. Cleanup fees from leaking oil pollution could easily exceed $10,000 to $20,000 in liability plus contaminated water problems. This was not a controversial bill and easily exceeded the then 2/3 vote requirement imposed by Eyman to raise taxes.

Yet Eyman’s myopic libertarian philosophy says all taxes are bad and should be opposed. His push poll style ballot title wording contributed to voters voting against “tax increases” even when those increases benefited taxpayers. That’s because for Eyman the issue isn’t about good government or responsible government. It’s about the least government possible.

Eyman’s response before the election according to Andrew Garber’s article was:

“Eyman said that if voters reject the taxes approved by lawmakers, he hopes the Legislature would repeal them.”   

The second advisory vote on the ballot was to repeal a tax break originally passed to help home state bank Washington Mutual, which went out of business.  It now only benefited large out of state banks  by eliminating B&O taxes they would otherwise have had to pay on interest on residential loans on 1st mortgages.

Again using Eyman’s push poll style ballot title the ballot title read:

The legislature eliminated, without a vote of the people, a business and occupation tax deduction for certain financial institutions’ interest on residential loans, costing $170,000,000 in its first ten years, for government spending.

This tax increase should be:

[  ]  Repealed

[  ]  Maintained

Again the public responded to the anti-tax bias in the ballot title and with no campaign supporting the measure and no further explanation, the public in their advisory vote mode voted 56.9% to 43.1% to repeal ending this tax break that didn’t benefit state taxpayers but did give a tax break to big out of state banks.

In Eyman’s world it is all black and white. Taxes are bad. Government is bad. And those that follow blindly after him are hurting their own self interest and the state’s ability to fund program that benefit the public. Fortunately the advisory votes were only “advisory”.  But knee jerk public reaction to be anti tax in Eyman’s libertarian world only leads to people blindly followed his pied piper like lead over the cliff as they respond without thinking.

Eyman this year continues his assault on state government by proposing a new initiative to the legislature to limit all tax increases to one year until the state puts on the ballot a constitutional amendment to  require a 2/3 vote to raise any revenue or repeal any tax exemption. This would turn over to a 1/3 minority faction of legislators veto power over a majority of legislators. It seems Eyman’s libertarian views are not held by the majority of Legislators elected so he needs to try to change the rules to let a minority of legislators run the state. Voters need to reject Eyman’s libertarian government takeover proposal by not signing  his initiative and vigorously opposing it if it makes it onto next year’s ballot.

State Employees Union Loses its Marbles

The leadership of the Washington State Federation of State Employees has lost their marbles. Piqued because they believe the Democrats in the Washington State Senate did not do enough to support to support them in the budget, they decided to not just not endorse any Democratic Senators in their early endorsement process; they decided to endorse a strong supporter of Eyman’s Initiative 1053 that will make their plight even worse next year if it passes.

They endorsed Republican Pam Roach who is hardly a friend of labor or raising revenue to pay state employees or fund any state services being cut. Roach spoke at Tim Eyman’s press conference when he filed I-1053 earlier this year. Roach is for cutting the state budget which means cutting state employees.

Initiative 1053 would restore the 2/3 voting requirement that Democrats in the Legislature suspended in order to raise the revenue they did this year – some $753 million, after not raising any revenue last year because of the provisions of Eyman’s I-960.

It’s one thing to argue the Democrats should have done more, like eliminate more special interest tax exemptions that deplete the state budget to benefit certain businesses and corporations. But it is the height of ill advised political posturing to turn around and support someone like Pam Roach.

If the Washington State Federation of State Employees thinks Democrats did not go far enough, then they should field their own candidates that support their position. There are many of us that believe that the Democrats could have been more aggressive in revising our tax code to make it fairer to working families and done more to eliminate tax exemptions that unnecessarily reduce overall revenue to benefit only a few special interest taxpayers.

A picture can say a thousand words. Go to the following post on the Pam Roach Report  and view the picture at the bottom. These are the folks the Washington State Federation of State Employees is throwing their lot in with by endorsing Pam Roach. Pam Roach is seated with friends Senator Don Benton on one side and Tim Eyman on the other, flanked by Eyman financier Michael Dunmire.

Yes, the Federation of Washington State Employees has lost their marbles. Let’s hope this is only a temporary lapse as labor has been a strong force for tax reform in Washington State. We all make mistakes.

Eyman’s Initiative 1053 is Unconstitutional

Tim Eyman’s 2010 Washington State initiative push is Initiative 1053.  It is unconstitutional.  It is Washington State’s version of the US Senate’s filibuster. The filibuster is not in the US Constitution.  It is only a rule adopted by the US Senate. The same is true if I-1053 passes. The Washington State Legislature is not required to abide by the provisions of I-1053.

I-1053 is an attempt to reimpose a 2/3 vote requirement on all tax increases by the Washington State Legislature if they vote to suspend or repeal Initiative 960.  It also applies to any effort to repeal  any under performing tax exemptions. Initiative 960 was narrowly passed by the voters two years ago,  getting just 51.24% of the vote. An earlier version of the 2/3 voting requirement was passed by voters in 1993 by a similarly narrow margin.  I-601 only received a yes vote of 51.21%.

The Washington State Constitution says that in the first two years after an initiative passes, the State legislature can only amend or repeal the initiative by a 2/3 vote.  After two years it can do this with a simple majority vote. The Washington State Legislature is expected to either repeal or suspend the provisions of Initiative 960 in order to raise revenue without a 2/3 vote. Such legislation is currently working its way through the Legislature.  The Senate has passed it’s version to suspend I-690 for two years.  SB 5843

The state currently faces an additional $2.7 billion shortfall in covering its current 2 year budget. Because of the inability to get two thirds of the Legislature to support revenue increases last year, they adopted an all cuts budget. This year if they amend or repeal I-960, they can adopt revenue increases with a simple majority.

Initiative 1053 is unconstitutional because it is trying to change provisions in the Washington State Constitution. Initiatives can not amend the Washington State Constitution.  That requires a 2/3 vote of the Legislature and a vote of the people. It is a very high hurdle to pass and one very unlikely to ever impose a 2/3 vote for the Legislature to pass bills. It is meant to not be an easy process.

Article II, Section 21 of the Washington State Constitution states that “No bill shall become law unless on its final passage the vote be taken as to yeas and nays,  … and a majority of the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor.”

So technically I-960 is unconstitutional as would be I-1053. The State Supreme Court has so far declined to rule on I-960 syaing it is an internal matter for the State Legislature to act on.

Another way to look at the number is that Initiative 960 currently allows a minority of one third of the members of either house of the state legislature to overrule the votes of two thirds of the state legislators. Either 34 members out of 98 in the House or 17 members out of 49 in the Senate can prevent revenue increases or repeal of under-performing tax exemptions.

A no vote in either House by a one third minority of its members can overrule any majority yes vote unless the yes vote in both houses exceeds two thirds.

see also ‘Are supermajorities in the Legislature unconstitutional? in Crosscut by Daniel Jack Clausen
“Republicans back Eyman’s newest scheme” in Federal Way Mirror by Andrew Villeneuve

Before Voting Check Out Washington Conservation Voters Nov 2007 Endorsements

Global Warming? Energy Conservation? Transit? Toxic Chemicals? Recycling? Which candidates running for election on the November 2007 ballot in Washington State are most likely to represent you in protecting your health and the environment? Check out the list of locally endorsed candidates running for mayor, city councils, county councils, port commissions and more at the Washington Conservation Voters website.

Local endorsements are given for Clark, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston and Whatcom Counties.

They also recommned a No vote on Eyman’s Initiative 960. Initiative 960 is a Trojan Horse initiative meant to give minority Republicans control over the Washington State Legislature. It would allow one third of Washington State Legislators in either the House or Senate to stop any revenue increase no matter how needed the increase was. See our recent blog post, “Initiative 960 Would Turn Control of the Legislature Over to a Conservative Republican Minority

Initiative 960 is an attempt to overturn Washington State’s representative democracy based on majority rules for voting in the Washington State Constitution. I-960 would give veto power over the state budget to a minority of one third of the Legislators. You can visit the No on 960 website here.

Washington Conservation Voters also urge a Yes vote on Proposition 1 in King, Snohomish and Snohomish Counties. Proposition 1 is the Roads and Transit proposal.

Initiative 960 Would Turn Control of the Legislature Over to a Conservative Republican Minority

Initiative 960 is really quite simple. It is a right wing Trojan Horse designed to overturn majority rule in the Washington State Legislature. The main beneficiary would be the Republican Party.

Forget that Initiative 960 is unconstitutional because it overturns the majority vote decision making process set up by the Washington State Constitution. If passed and not challenged in Court, as Initiative 601 was never challenged in a timely manner, it would give a one third minority of Legislators powerful control over the state budget and the ability to raise revenue or increase fees to keep pace with increased costs.

Disguised as a way to increase accountability of the Legislature, Initiative 960 is really a Trojan Horse whose purpose is to hand over control of one of the Legislature’s major powers – the ability to raise revenue -to one third of the Legislators. Of course those Legislators who would gain power under this scheme would be the minority Republicans who ideologically oppose any tax and fee increases no matter what the issue or need.

Forget that Democrats have a solid majority of Legislators in both the House and Senate. This bill would put the conservative anti-tax Republicans in charge of the Legislature when it comes to major budget matters.

Requiring a supermajority of two thirds of the Legislators to pass tax increases would mean that 33 Representatives out of 98 total and 16 Senators out of 49 total would be running the show. Forget Speaker Frank Chopp of the House – he would be toast if Initiative 960 passes. Forget Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown – she no longer would matter. Chopp would need 66 Representatives to pass any revenue increasing bill. Brown would need 33 Senators to do so.

Requiring a two votes to pass legislation to increase revenue is a difficult hurdle to pass. Realize that a two thirds vote of Congress is required to over ride a Presidential veto. It does not happen that often.

Initiative 960 would drastically change the Legislative process as set up by the Washington State Constitution by overturning majority rules for voting. The democratic idea of Legislative majorities making decisions no longer would be the case.

Initiative 960 in this sense is a radical idea. It would overturn the whole concept of representative democracy by majority rule and would give the power of raising revenue or not raising revenue in the state of Washington to what one could call a super powerful Minority Rules .

If Initiative 960 were to pass the new law of the land would be Minority Rules.

This idea of a super powerful Minority Rules is of course what the right wing anti government anti tax ideologues hope voters will create by passing Initiative 960. Running as Republicans with this agenda and ideology has seen them lose their majority status in Washington State. Rejected by voters in the majority of legislative districts across the state, Republicans are salivating, hoping voters pass Initiative 960.

Running as Republicans they could not outright win a majority of Legislative seats espousing these ideas. So now they are resorting to this backdoor ruse, this Trojan Horse, to try to regain the control they once had in the Legislature.

This effort is wholeheartedly endorsed by the Washington State Republican Party. They are letting their wunderkind do the front work.

Initiative 960 is the cute baby of Tim Eyman and his money man Michael Dunmire. Dunmire and his wife contributed some $500,000 to buy their way onto the ballot by paying signature gatherers, many from out of state, to collect the necessary signatures.

Dunmire lives in Woodinville, Washington and epitomizes the anti democratic master plan of those who would like to revive the rejected ideas of the anti-government anti-tax old guard Republicans who have lost favor with citizens that want to see government work to benefit the people of this state.

Initiative 960 is a throwback to the rejected ideals of the Grover Norquists of the world that want to drown government in a bath tub by rejecting all taxes.

The best thing that Washington voters can do is drown Initiative 960 and flush it down the toilet. Vote No on Initiative 960. Let’s move Washington forward and work for a better state.

see also:

Initiative 960: No Straightjackets – Seattle PI Oct 10, 2007

Potential Financial Impacts of I-960 – Office of Financial Management State of Washington

I-960 won’t fix real problems – The Olympian Aug 23, 2007

No I-960! website

Initiative 960: Inefficient and ambiguous – Washington State Budget and Policy Center

Initiative 960 -Vote No – Sierra Club

Organizations Opposing Initiative 960

The League of Women Voters of Washington Opposes Initiative 960

Reasons to Oppose Initiative 960 – Permanent Defense

Vote No I-960 – Futurewise

It’s Initiative 953, No its Initiative 954, No its Initiative 960

For a whopping total of $15 this year, Initiative 953 became Initiative 954 which then became Initiative 960. Tim Eyman wastes taxpayer dollars and resources filing 3 identical initiatives (at $5 a piece) so he can get a ballot number he likes. He laughs at the Washington State Legislature and recently emphatically told them in a public hearing that all of his initiatives are different. That is a lie.

The Washington Secretary of State’s website lists 36 initiatives Eyman filed last year. Most of these initiatives were multiple filings of the same initiatives. The same “tax and fee increase” initiative was filed as I-913, I-930, I-944, I-368, I-370, I-372, I-373, I-374, I-376, I-377, I-378, and again as I-953, I-954, and I-960 this January.

Eyman refiles basically the same initiative multiple times for 2 reasons. The first reason is to get a ballot number he likes. The second reason is to changes words, phrases and sentences to try to change the ballot title he is assigned by the Attorney General’s Office. If he doesn’t like the ballot title he gets, he will change a word or two and refile. All of this is done at taxpayers’ expense. He only pays $5 per initiative filing. It costs taxpayers a lot more than this. Maybe its time for a performance audit of the state initiative filing process.

The Secretary of State’s Office pays staff to process each initiative and send it to the code revisers office which devotes staff time to review it for conformity to state law. They draft up a letter to give to the initiative sponsor suggesting needed changes. When the initiative is transported back to the Secretary of State’s Office more staff time is used to process it again, assign it a ballot number and send it to the Attorney General’s Office. Time is also spent entering the initiative text on the Secretary of State’s website.

The Attorney General’s Office devotes staff time and resources to come up with the ballot title and summary, reviewing their proposed ballot title and summary language with any interested parties and then defending it in Thurston County Superior Court if their language is challenged. This can be very time consuming and lawyer intensive – again all at taxpayer expense.

Of the 36 initiatives Eyman filed last year, 20 were filed as initiatives to the legislature through Dec 2006. Eyman had no intent of collecting signatures on these. The deadline for turning in signatures on initiatives to the Legislature is the end of December. Eyman has had over 5 months to get signatures on his recent initiatives and still failed. So he’s going to be successful starting with only 1 0r 2 months left to get signatures?

He also wouldn’t want to give the Legislature a chance to propose an alternative. His initiatives are refiled frequently to try to get what he thinks is a better ballot title and summary. Most people who might challenge these ballot titles as inaccurate are not watching the initiative process very closely in November and December. This gives Eyman a chance to get a quick start in January when he refiles one or two of these as initiatives to the people, already having a ballot title waiting.

Eyman’s current “Minority Rules” Initiative 960 was filed and refiled 11 times last year as such an initiative to the Legislature. He refiled it three times this year as an initiative to the people to change the initiative number from I-953 to I-954 to I-960.

Some in the Legislature have filed a bill to raise the filing fee to $100 to at least recoup some of the cost of this process. In California the filing fee for city initiatives like San Francisco and Sacramento is $200. Maine charges no fee.

Eyman’s abuse of the process to benefit his initiative mill business is what makes people angry. One bad apple can spoil it for the rest of us. I’ve filed and worked on many initiative campaigns over the years. I think we need to continue to keep the process open to the people so they can petition for change when the Legislature doesn’t act. But Eyman’s behavior and disrespect for the process is like a little boy in the cookie jar. He doesn’t eat just one or two cookies. He eats the whole jar.

His Initiative 960 of course is another example of a spoiled boy’s behavior. Eyman doesn’t like the fact that the Washington State Constitution says that the Legislature shall vote by majority rule. So he’s trying to fool the voters into believing that he can ignore the state Constitution and require that any vote to increase revenue to pay for services either requires a 2/3 vote by the Legislature or a majority vote by the Legislature and a majority vote of the people.

Under I-960 if the Legislature wanted to just increase the filing fee to an outrageous $10, they would have to have a 2/3 vote of the Legislature or put it on the ballot for all of us to vote on. Yes under Eyman’s Initiative 960 all fee increases as well as tax increases would require a vote. I can just see the ballot now, ten or twenty pages long as we all get to decide what fees are charged water users, boat launches, grazing fees, business licenses, game licenses and on and on. Like we just must vote on all of these?

Eyman continues to abuse the public trust. He rails against a wasteful government but feels no remorse about using taxpayer dollars and resources to further his own business. In that sense he is no different than all the other businesses lobbyists down in Olympia looking for handouts and exemptions from expenses and taxes that the rest of us have to pay.