Eyman wants to slash property taxes
"Politicians unfairly took our money; this new initiatives gives it back," Eyman said in a statement from his Mukilteo home. He said it's payback for lawmakers' "$4 billion lie."
His proposal, aimed at the 2004 statewide ballot, would cut the state's share of the property tax by 25 percent.
Brown said the revenue loss would devastate public education and other services that have been hit hard by the lingering recession.
Eyman and his band of anti-tax activists apparently will not try to overturn the transportation package, including the nickel-a-gallon gas tax that goes into effect July 1.
Eyman, who outlined his new plan in an e-mail, was not available to elaborate on his strategy. Previously, he had said he would mount a "voter veto" for any and all taxes and fees approved by the Legislature this year.
The Legislature did not touch the property tax. The highway package, approved on strong bipartisan votes, involved the session's only increase in general revenue. The taxes enhance the transportation budget, which is separate from the operating budget that the property tax helps finance.
The constitution earmarks the state's share of the property tax for public schools. The state is allowed to levy up to $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for public schools, and currently levies $2.53.
Local property taxes, used for public schools and a variety of local services, apparently are not affected by the initiative proposal.
Eyman did say he might expand his initiative if lawmakers approve local-option, voter-approved tax increases, as cities and counties are requesting. He didn't elaborate.
Eyman said in his e-mail that voters have made it clear for four years in a row that they don't want new taxes. And he took issue with claims by lawmakers and Locke that they produced a no-new-tax budget.
"That's a $4 billion lie," he said, referring to the separate transportation budget.
"The truth is, conniving politicians explicitly ignored the voters' rejection of Referendum 51 (last year's $7.7 billion transportation plan) and jacked up gas taxes, sales taxes and other fees anyway."
By making the plan take effect July 1, lawmakers intentionally made it impossible to mount a realistic challenge at the ballot box, Eyman said.
"Voters deserve the chance to get their money back" in the form of lower property taxes, he said. Eyman said his Initiative 747, adopted by voters two years ago, limits property tax growth to 1 percent a year and that his new plan "uniformly reduces everyone's property tax burden.
"The goal of this initiative is to cut property taxes to make up for the numerous tax and fee increases passed in Olympia this year," he said.
Eyman noted that Locke wants $2 billion in tax breaks for The Boeing Co., but said the state shouldn't play favorites.
"We agree with Gary Locke that an economic stimulus is needed, but not just for Boeing but for everyone," he said.
Brown, who has been critical of initiatives that pile on new spending mandates while parallel measures cut the tax base, said Eyman's latest would be bitter medicine.
"I guess I'm confused about his purpose -- if he's upset with transportation taxes, why is he targeting schools? The property tax pays for a completely different budget and a completely different service. It's for K-12," kindergarten through 12th grade education.
The state share of the property tax is bringing in $2.6 billion in the current two-year budget. That's expected to grow slightly in the upcoming biennium and a 25 percent reduction would amount to about $700 million in a two-year period, Brown said.
The state's K-12 budget is about $5 billion a year. The state has 1 million public school pupils.
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