Eyman turns in signatures to put Initiative 960 on ballot
Tim Eyman apparently got the signatures needed to put a measure on the ballot that could make it tougher for the state Legislature to increases...
Seattle Times staff reporter
OLYMPIA — Tim Eyman apparently got the signatures needed to put a measure on the ballot that could make it tougher for the state Legislature to increases taxes and for state agencies to increase fees.
Opponents have already started a campaign to defeat Initiative 960, which they contend would cause gridlock in the Legislature.
Eyman, who earns a living trying to pass ballot measures, says he turned in 314,566 signatures today, the deadline for turning them in. State law required valid signatures from 224,880 registered voters.
Initiative backers generally need to collect 25 to 30 percent more signatures than required to make sure they have enough to qualify.
Eyman says I-960 would pressure the state Legislature to take a two-thirds vote in both chambers in order to pass tax increases. Also, any tax approved would be placed on the ballot for a public advisory vote.
In addition, the measure would require the Legislature to approve any fee increases by state agencies. Currently, agencies are allowed to increase fees on their own as long as they don't exceed limits set by state law.
The initiative also requires additional public notification when the Legislature considers tax bills and a 10-year estimate of how much the proposals would cost.
Eyman contends the initiative is largely intended to reinstate I-601, a spending-limit measure approved by Washington voters in 1993.
Over the years, the Legislature has tinkered with I-601 to get around both its spending limit and a supermajority vote requirement to increase taxes.
The new ballot measure "puts Olympia on a much shorter leash," Eyman said, although he acknowledged the Legislature would still have the ability to suspend an existing two-thirds voting requirement for tax increases, even if I-960 passes.
Eyman contends that if voters approve his initiative, the Legislature would be under intense public pressure not so sidestep the provision.
The governor's budget office declined to comment about the initiative.
Opponents say Eyman is oversimplifying what the measure does.
"It is designed to tie state government in knots and make it less efficient and less responsive," said Christian Sinderman, a Democratic consultant involved in the No on I-960 campaign.
Opponents say the initiative is difficult to interpret, but it could be read to require a two-thirds vote for such actions as taking existing tax revenue and using it to increase funding for education and health care.
In other words, they say, simply passing the budget — without any tax increases — could require a two-thirds vote.
Eyman disagrees. "The opponents have been misreading and mischaracterizing I-960 from the very beginning," he said.
Andrew Garber: email@example.com or 360-236-8268
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