Eyman pares back his vote requirement for new taxes
By David Ammons, The Associated Press
Seattle, WA - Here's a short description of I-800 with the new changes: This measure would require either two-thirds legislative approval or majority voter approval for state, county, port, and city tax and fee increases. Increases adopted after November 1, 2002 without two-thirds legislative approval or majority voter approval would expire.
OLYMPIA — Anti-tax activist Tim Eyman pared back his latest tax initiative yesterday, substituting a two-thirds supermajority requirement for new taxes and fees for his original, next-to-impossible 75 percent standard.
Eyman's newest version of Initiative 800 would also invalidate any tax increases adopted during the next year without either a public vote or supermajority approval by the Legislature or a local-government body.
Eyman has continued to refine the 2003 initiative, which he calls an "800-pound gorilla" that should halt state and local tax increases in their tracks. Last month, he started backpedaling from his original proposal by removing a provision that sought to apply the supermajority requirement retroactively to Nov. 1 of this year.
He said he's trying to incorporate suggestions and respond to criticism wherever possible, while still compelling state and local officials to look at tax increases as a last resort.
Eyman has until next July to gather about 200,000 valid voter signatures to secure I-800 a place on the November 2003 ballot.
The Legislature faces a $2 billion budget gap next year and some lawmakers, including House Appropriations Chairwoman Helen Sommers, D-Seattle, say taxes have to be considered as part of the solution.
"They'll really kick a beehive if they simply ignore the realities out there" and boost taxes, Eyman said. "If they want to play a game of chicken with the voters and ... raise taxes during these tough economic times, it will make the initiative even more popular."
In a letter he's sending to donors, Eyman said the new draft would re-establish the taxation limits that voters approved as Initiative 601 in 1993 after taxes were raised $1 billion in the last economic downturn.
"We need I-601's taxpayer-protection policies now more than ever," the letter said. "I-601 worked. It will work again."
I-601 imposed a two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases — a feature never challenged in court. Earlier this year, the Democratic-controlled Legislature reduced that to a simple majority for 2002 and 2003.
As amended by Eyman, the new initiative would:
• Require that any tax or fee increase be adopted by the Legislature, city or county governing body or port district by at least a two-thirds vote. Previously this was 75 percent, a level even some initiative backers didn't like, Eyman said. In the case of a three-member county commission, it would have forced all three members to vote in favor.
• Allow simple-majority approval of taxes and fees if the plan is then submitted to voters for ratification.
• Terminate taxes and fees adopted during the next year without the supermajority or public vote. The state or local legislative body could reimpose the tax if that action was approved by a supermajority or if the measure was referred to the voters.
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Message from Eyman: "In 1993, after voters approved I-601, which required 2/3's legislative approval for state tax increases, politicians did, in fact, challenge it in court but the state Supreme Court refused to hear the case because opponents could not prove harm. The Legislature has abided by the 2/3's requirement for 7 or 8 years. They are clearly in a worse position to prove harm now."
"And that only concerns state government. It is unquestionably legal and constitutional for a state law to require 2/3's legislative approval or majority voter approval for tax increases for local governments."
"Consider voter-approved Initiative 747 which limited property tax collection increases to 1% per year for state government and local governments. Opponents didn't even challenge I-747 because it is undeniably proper to limit taxes as long as the restriction is uniform for the governments being targeted."
"I-800 will be the 800 pound gorilla in 2003. I-800 protect our families and our economy from reckless tax increases. Under I-800, there must be a consensus among elected officials that a tax increase is truly necessary."
Voters Want More Choices I-800 · PO Box 18250 · Spokane
· WA · 99228
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