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Tim Eyman files initiatives to block tax increases
Posted by Jim Brunner
Initiative guru Tim Eyman wasted no time responding to the Legislature's decision to raise $757 million in taxes to help close the state's $2.8 billion budget hole.
Just hours after lawmakers adjourned their special session, Eyman filed eight initiatives Tuesday morning to repeal new taxes imposed by lawmakers -- higher taxes on beer, soda, bottled water, candy, among others.
Time is short for Eyman to get those measures on the November ballot, though.
To qualify, each one needs 241,153 valid signatures from registered voters. Really, they'll need about 300,000 signatures for a proper cushion. And the signatures are due by July 2.
Majority Democrats in Olympia made it harder to challenge the tax increases by attaching an emergency clause. That clause prevents a referendum challenge -- which would only require about 150,000 signatures to make the ballot.
"They basically sabotaged any repeal effort by slapping an emergency clause on their package," Eyman said.
The difficulty of getting 300,000 signatures in just several weeks will be "astronomical," Eyman acknowledged. It could take four weeks just to get the legal language drafted and into petition form.
Eyman said some of the initiatives may be combined in the coming weeks to simplify matters.
Asked about the tax-repeal efforts at a news conference Tuesday, Gov. Chris Gregoire said the state would have to resort to a damaging "all-cuts" budget if it loses the tax money.
Gregoire said she would defend the tax increases to the public and that an all-cuts budget would devastate services like college financial aid, preschool for 3-year-olds and hospice care.
"It's not a state of Washington that I want to be a part of, I can assure you that," Gregoire said.
Eyman already is gathering signatures for Initiative 1053, which would reinstate the requirement that two-thirds of the Legislature vote for any tax increases (unless the taxes are sent to a public vote.)
That requirement, from a 2007 Eyman initiative approved by voters, was suspended by majority Democrats this year in order to raise taxes.
While much of the attention has been on taxes, the Legislature also made more than $750 million in cuts as part of its final budget, hitting K-12, higher education and other state services.
That's in addition to the closing a $9 billion budget shortfall in 2009 through budget cuts and federal aid instead of tax increases.
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