Eyman will push to restore tax barrier
Tim Eyman showed up at the state Capitol to announce plans for an initiative that would require a two-thirds majority of the Legislature — or a public vote — for all tax increases.
Seattle Times staff reporter
OLYMPIA — Another year. Another Tim Eyman initiative.
The Mukilteo initiative promoter showed up at the state Capitol on Monday to announce plans for an initiative this year that would require a two-thirds majority of the Legislature — or a public vote — for all tax increases.
If that sounds familiar, it's because the new proposal would restore a key provision of I-960, the 2007 initiative that put the two-thirds tax-vote requirement in place.
Majority Democrats say they plan to suspend I-960 to make way for tax increases to help close a $2.6 billion state budget gap and stave off severe cuts to state services.
Because two years have elapsed since voters approved I-960, lawmakers can suspend or modify it with a simple majority vote.
Eyman's return on the first day of the 60-day legislative session sparked a debate about how democracy is supposed to function.
Gov. Chris Gregoire and other Democratic leaders say Eyman's meddling interferes with the work of elected officials.
"For those like him who want to have a say constantly, come on down and run for election. Otherwise, leave it to us," Gregoire said.
Gregoire made the remarks after accepting thousands of petitions delivered by social-services, health-care and education advocates. Those groups are part of a coalition urging Gregoire and lawmakers to consider tax increases to avoid drastic budget cuts.
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, expressed similar sentiments last week, saying I-960 has had "ludicrous" consequences and that suspending it would "stay true to the principle of majority rule."
Eyman and his supporters scoffed at such comments, noting that voters have endorsed the two-thirds requirement three times.
"You'd think that a fourth time shouldn't be necessary," Eyman said.
Whether the initiative is really needed may be in the hands of the Legislature, Eyman said.
"The more they restrain themselves and the more they can actually hold back from raising taxes, it actually kills our signature drive," Eyman said during a news conference in Secretary of State Sam Reed's office. "But that wouldn't make us very sad at all. That would actually be a good outcome."
While Gregoire and others have broached the topic of tax increases, they haven't gotten specific yet.
And matters won't get much clearer today when Gregoire delivers additional budget details to a legislative panel. At a Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing, Gregoire is expected to offer her "buyback" list of at least $700 million in state services she wants to preserve from cuts.
But Gregoire said she won't specify how to pay for that. The state's budget picture will be better known once Congress decides how much federal money will be sent to states.
To qualify for the November ballot, Eyman's latest initiative must receive valid signatures from 241,153 registered voters.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org