Washington Secretary of State Blog

[UPDATE: commenter Advokat asserts that the Sound Transit bonds don’t have defeasance provisions, and so the initiative wouldn’t have any  direct impact on Sound Transit.  If so, that’s one less horrible thing that this initiative would do. I’ve asked Sound Transit to clarify.]

Fresh off a victory making tax increases and closing of tax loopholes nearly impossible, initiative guru Tim Eyman has filed a number of initiatives to make things specifically worse for transportation. These are technically initiatives to the legislature, giving them the chance to act. Assuming Eyman’s organization collects the signatures and the legislature does not act, they would go to the ballot. According to the P-I, who broke the story, these are basically trial balloons for the November 2011 election.

All the details are at the Secretary of State’s website. There are several variations of a rehash of the $30 license fee issue, but I read the most recent one, Initiative 473. “Highlights” of a broad attack on vehicle taxes and fees:

  • Eliminate the ability of Transportation Benefit Districts to levy a $20 license fee without a public vote, as Seattle is likely to do soon.
  • Sound Transit’s Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET), previously protected in Court from a past car-tab initiative because it was used to guarantee bond payments, would have to be dedicated to immediately retiring those bonds. As of August, ST predicted that MVET would generate about 9.6% of its tax revenue through 2023. Eliminating it would put ST fully 32% below its 2008 revenue projection. Worse yet, to meet the 90 day deadline the agency might have to dedicate non-MVET funds to retiring the bonds, arresting progress on a wide array of projects.
  • Limits toll revenue to highway purposes on the tolled highway, ruling out use of any tolling revenue to fund transit. Apparently, Eyman favors Communist-style scarcity of valuable road space on I-90, rather than rational pricing consistent with supply and demand.
  • The measure also looks out for dangerous drivers by weakening fines associated with red-light cameras.

This is usually the space where people launch all sorts of personal attacks on Tim Eyman. It’s abundantly clear that this initiative, like his other creations, is a horror show for people who care at all about effective delivery of government services.

However, one can find anti-tax fanatics in every state in the Union, although ours are well-organized. In the right election, the voters of Washington are not at all alone in going along with these schemes that cut revenue without having to specify the matching spending cuts. What’s different here are the institutions: a State Constitution that enshrines the right of low-information voters to overrule legislators on complicated policy decisions and budgets.

The single best good-governance reform possible in Washington State is to amend this power away, placing us on par with such undemocratic, authoritarian structures as the U.S. Constitution, and 26 states including Texas, Iowa, New York, and Maryland. Unfortunately, at the moment such a move would be extremely unpopular, even among progressives who routinely have their core priorities gutted in this process.

92 Replies to “Eyman At It Again”

  1. The answer is to put together a broad coalition of businesses, labor unions, and others who understand the benefits of mass transportation to start pushing back now against these proposals, whether or not they make the ballot. We saw with I-776 that the rest of the state is happy to screw with Sound Transit, so a big “no” vote on these initiatives in the Puget Sound region is essential.

    1. The answer is to rectify property taxes, which are currently applied unequally to equivalent properties, and to levy higher taxes for local areas that want more, or less, transit.

      Fees, income taxes, sales taxes and all other taxes are inherently wrong for funding transit projects. The funding should only come from property tax.

      1. In a sense, you are probably right. But, the fees are also meant to control behaviour. Especially when you consider that drivers are disproportionately favoured over transit for funding. Unfortunately, most of the funding comes from sales taxes which are incredibly regressive. If it were possible, I’d rather push more funding via down the route of tolling, gas taxes (big ones), and MVET (or one based upon emissions is probably fairer). But, property taxes are definitely more stable and puts the the system equal for users who shall benefit. However, we still have a tax system that favours the car and so it’s hard for me to want to argue property taxes as the SOLE way to fund transit.

      2. Note: “except new construction”.

        This automatically guarantees a system of inequality at the most basic level of taxation.

        Quite frankly, I’m not sure why new comers to WA, who now outnumber the so-called “natives” aren’t up in arms for having to pay so much tax for so little land compared to their Longtimer neighbors.

        Also, if you’re trying to get something done, good luck, as with an inherently unfair tax system, most people are going to be against anything you propose.

      3. What are you talking about? Property tax is based on the assessed value of the property, and which county it’s located in. This is not California where owners pay taxes based on the original purchase price rather than on the current value, meaning those who bought before 1990 pay much lower property taxes than those who bought later.

      4. Mike:

        WA State has Prop 13 written into its Constitution.

        If you want to fight something, fight the four (4) restrictions enumerated here:


        Legal limitations on property taxes

        There are four restrictions or limits that affect how high property taxes can go.

        The 1% constitutional limit: The primary limitation on property taxes was established by the 55th amendment to the Washington State Constitution in 1972. Article 7, Section 2 of the Constitution and RCW 84.52.050 limit the total regular property tax levy to a maximum of $10.00 per $1,000 of the market value of property. Excluded from this $10 limit are levies for ports and public utility districts.

      5. When you build a system that connects the airport, Safeco Field, Quest Field and Husky Stadium why is it that we shouldn’t tap sales tax, hotel motel tax and rental cars? How about a special income tax on players (or owners) that claim out of State residency?

      6. Washington has nothing like Prop 13 in its Constitution.

        The rate developed for a jurisdiction is applied to the current valuation of all properties. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve owned your home or what your original cost was, the tax rate is applied to your current assessed value.

        The overall revenue of a taxing authority is subject to the Constitutional limits. For example, the 101% rule applies to the total prior yearlevy.

        Start with four houses valued at $250,000 each, and a $1 rate, for $1,000 total tax.

        Three houses stay at $250,000, one jumps to $400,000. Total assessed value is now $1,150,000, maximum allowed levy is 101% of last year, or $1,010, for a maxium allowable rate of 0.878. For the three houses whose value stayed the same, property tax goes from $250 to $219.50. For the one house whose value jumped, tax goes from $250 to $351.

        Now, assume the same starting point, but one additional house is built at $250,000 assessed value. That fifth house is subject to the same rate as existing construction, but its value is outside the 101% limit. So the allowable tax rate of 0.878 costs that owner the same $219.50 as someone who owns an existing house of the same value, but the total property tax is now $1,229.50.

        Nothing like Prop 13 tax rules.

    2. I don’t see how it’s constitutional to be singling out specific agencies in specific taxing districts, to be voted on by persons outside that district.

      That seems to be a non-starter.

      1. It’s unconstitutional just like I-747 was unconstitutional. That was T.E.’s first attempt at getting rid of the MVET. There is something called the “Contracts Clause” – legislation adopted after a contract is signed can’t modify the terms of any contracts then in existence. Even if the new initiative passes, ST would just say “go pound sand – we’ve got a contract that requires us to assess and collect the MVET through 2028 and we won’t violate the terms of that contract.”

        What’s so weird about this is T.E. didn’t learn from I-747 . . . if you ignore history you’re doomed to repeat it!

      2. Why should it matter to Eyman? His chosen job is to push lots of initiative. If they fail or are overturned, there’s more work for next year.

      3. If his main concern were solely to push initiatives, he would submit a wider variety of them including ones that would appeal to progressives. But instead he sticks to anti-tax, anti-transit initiatives, indicating he’s putting his ideology above maximum income.

    3. I’m also not sure of what is meant by “High Capacity Transportation Corridor”?

      A search shows no use of “Transit” in the document. Does that mean this would also deal with any bonding on road projects? After all, the Puget Sound Region’s freeways are High Capacity.

      Typically, the wording is vague.

      As I look this over, it’s almost looking like this Initiative would guarantee Tolls on the local major highways. Governed by an unpaid Citizens Advisory Panel.

  2. Insert plethora ad hominems. I still say we pass a constitutional amendment revoking his residency status and banning him from the state. Okay, with that over, I have every faith that the legislature will say no. But does that mean it goes to the people? And, if it does, judging by this year, these ludicrous ideas are likely to pass despite near unanimous opposition from ST’s domain and the central Puget Sound. Sigh.

  3. Are initiatives to the legislature also restricted from amending the state constitution, as initiatives to the people are?

  4. “…to overrule legislators on complicated policy decisions and budgets.”

    And how is Washington state’s budget looking these days?

    People who do poor jobs should be overruled.

    1. So Eyman wants to restrict the ability of the state to raise revenue so he can point at the budget and say “look how much they’re spending, but we’re not getting what we want!” so he can cut his taxes even further. Meanwhile we all want things like fire protection, water, electricity, roads…

      1. It’s tough. Raising taxes shouldn’t be a crutch for fiscal mismanagement, but at the same time the state should be given the freedom to raise taxes when no amount of frugality will cover the deficit without cutting services people want. It’s made more difficult when the budget is set by politicians, not accountants. A lot of people either don’t know about Keynesian economics (which recommends deficit spending during recessions) or think Keynes was wrong, but what’s the alternative?

      2. I heard a nice summary of the Austrian school position yesterday. The problem with the Depression was that it was not allowed to resolve itself, as Hoover wanted to do. With a few more years, the economy would have retracted enough for prices to fall as far as they could and all the bankrupcies to occur (which erase all the previous bad debts), and then the economy would begin growing on its own.

    2. I can just see the ads, “ST can’t complete phase 2 on time, just like it couldn’t fulfill Forward Thrust, and is just now reaching Northgate in 2030, 34 years after promised.”

  5. I have a simple rule regarding initiatives: “Did Tim Eyeman sponsor it? If so, vote no”.
    Unfortunately, I suspect a lot of other voters have an opposing hueristic.

    1. I think a lot of Seattleites think the same way, including my mom. I think the Stranger has even said in its endorsements, “Tim Eyman is behind this one – reason enough to vote no”.

  6. Problem isn’t Tim Eyman. Problem is why his initiatives are still winning elections. What’s it been now? Twenty years? Those of us who don’t want to see our state government destroyed- let alone our transit system- need to ask not how Tim could be so awful, but what he’s doing right to be able to do so much damage for so long. Any tricks we can learn?

    Mark Dublin

    1. To take a leaf from Stephen Colbert, it is good old fashioned fear that has people both running to government but refusing to fund or acknowledge them in the process.

    2. He’s appealing to people’s selfish and greedy nature. He’s appealing to the seemingly ingrained receptivity to Libertarian ideas even if they are in reality just a myth. Things like “Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps”, “Government is the problem”. All of these messages are carefully crafted by a web of corporate interests to derange any possible collective concentration of political power among the masses.

      Unfortunately, those that enable these messages are eating at the carcass of our country.

      1. They’re also deeply rooted parts of the American identity – self-reliance, rags-to-riches, that sort of thing – things we learn in childhood in America. That’s the sort of thing Glenn Beck appeals to.

        I think the Tea Party is also rooted in a fear that any enlarging and empowering of government is a step that inevitably leads to 1984, or at least to the oppression of King George. (This is also part of the same reason taking away the initiative would never fly; it serves as a check against the ever-growing power of government.) And economics doesn’t help by promoting, or seeming to promote, a blind faith in the free market to solve all our problems – as well as claiming that America’s differences from other countries make us better, not worse. “Sure, Europe has universal health care, but they also take all your money; do you really want to live there?” Another reason taking away the initiative will never fly: conservatives really love pushing the “people know more than the liberal elitists give them credit for” angle.

        I wrote more about this here: http://www.morganwick.com/2010/10/the-conservative-case-to-a-liberal/ It’s written from the perspective of a Republican intending to convert a Democrat to his side, though it probably falls short of even my more modest goals.

      2. Oh, and politicians of both parties don’t do much to earn the people’s trust. Simply having a third party would make a world of difference not only by reducing the lesser-of-two-evils problem, but also forcing parties to actually agree with each other, rather than disagreeing just because and turning every issue into Armageddon.

      3. Let’s not forget that many of “America’s differences with other countries” are false. Several western countries have pushed ahead of the US in terms of (low) corporate tax rate, worker productivity, average education level, infant mortality, longevity, attractiveness to high-skilled immigrants, etc. Not all at once of course, but Germany for instance is booming with high-wage employment and exports, and car companies are locating there and “re-insourcing” jobs. New Zealand scores highest for quality of life (meaning the highest percentage of people who are satisfied with their society, govrenment, and standard of living). These countries manage to do this even with a larger social safety net than the US has.

      4. Regarding third parties, people need to learn about Duverger’s Law.

        But just try to get proportional representation passed in this country.

        Personally, I favor reweighted range voting — as long as I’m gonna back something which is almost quixotic, I might as well support the best option.

    3. Exactly. We need to change the initiative process so that corporations and narrow interest groups can’t bend the initiative process.

    4. His success rate has been mixed. Some pass and some fail. As for why now, “It’s the recession and unemployment, dude.” There’s no other way to explain why the voters became much more anti-tax than usual.

      What’s needed is a big grassroots campaign and counter-ads to defend transit.

      1. Remember, Tim Eyman doesn’t really care whether his initiatives pass at the polls or not. He does them to earn a living, and he makes money win or lose.

        He’s pre-filing a bunch of initiatives now to see which ones his donors are most receptive to. He makes money managing the signature gathering campaigns. That’s how he pays his mortgage and puts food on the table. He may have truly been public-spirited at one time, but no longer. Now, it’s just a business.

    5. Beyond that, even without Tim, his backers would have found someone like him. We need to go after the root not the branch.

  7. “What’s different here are the institutions: a State Constitution that enshrines the right of low-information voters to overrule legislators on complicated policy decisions and budgets.”

    Wasn’t it “low-information voters” who passed Sound Move and ST2? Did you have any problem with letting “Low-information voters” pass a 0.5% sales tax increase to fund the financial boondoggle that is ST2?

    How do you think ST2 would have done if it were on the ballot this year instead of 2 years ago?

    What do you think is more important: a 0.2% sales tax increase to fund King County law enforcement? Or a 0.5% sales tax increase to build 2 more little lines of lite trains in our area?

    All the points listed in the article that are supposed to be included in Eyman’s new initatives look good to me, except lowering the fines for red-light runners.

    1. Norman,

      The core difference is that Sound Move and ST2 are measures that government wanted to pursue and needed public approval, rather than grassroots initiative crafted irresponsibly. I would have been perfectly happy with a system where elected officials simply authorized the creation of Sound Transit instead of having to do a public vote.

      1. Sound Move and ST2 are the most “irresponsible” wastes of money in the history of our area. Even worse than the pro sports stadiums.

        Wasting money is wasting money, no matter who passes the legislation.

        You feel that our legislators never make mistakes?

      2. So Norman,

        You think we should do without a Legislature?

        If that’s the case, then where is the “Roads Only” ballot proposal that I can vote on?

        You do have something constructive in mind, don’t you?

      3. Of course legislators make mistakes. However, they can be held accountable for those mistakes. They’re also required to pay for tax cuts and spending increases, which puts some discipline on them. Meanwhile, initiatives can freely cut revenue or increase spending without identifying the tradeoffs. It’s governance by free lunch.

      4. Initiatives used to be fewer and more public-interest. “No sales tax on food!” “Decriminalize marijuana!” “Three strikes and no parole!” Now there are a lot more initiatives, and the effect of most of them is to provide a direct financial benefit to the initiative’s sponsor.

      5. What would be this blog’s response to an initiative that proposed expanding taxing authority for transit? Would that be “low-information voters…overrul[ing] legislators on complicated policy decisions and budgets”?

      6. Yes, it would be low-info voters overruling the legislature. If those are the rules of the game, though, that’s what we’ll support. We won’t forfeit use of the tools our opponents are using, although I’d be happy to take it off the table.

        I’ll also note that your scenario suggests an initiative that matches revenues and expenditures, which is not the norm for an Eyman production.

  8. If I said what I felt about Eyman, my comments would probably all be deleted as ‘ad-homninem’ attacks. Ever since I first became aware of the guy back in 1999, it seems to me that he has only ever done his level best to ruin the state he seemingly wants to live in and smash everything I believe in. From emasculating the ferry system to car tabs to delaying restoration of King Street Station, to quote Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, “no man’s pie is freed from his ambitious finger”.

    Washington State’s initiative process needs massive reform in my honest opinion. The idea that as Martin so correctly says that “low income information voters” can hold up everything based on that very ignorance is an anathema to those of us who believe in constructive and civilized progress to a more perfect union.

    Eyman belongs to our state’s rogue gallery of luminaries whose goal seems to be only themselves as they fit into the state they live in and not the other way around. Ask not what your state can do for you but what you can do for your state should be our daily mantra and Eyman seems not to be able constitutionally to see this.

  9. I have had many discussions with my dad, who lives in California, about the tragedy of the initiative system. It has been co-opted in both of our states as a tool for oligarchs to work against the common good.

  10. I disagree with his first two ideas, and support his last two.
    The attempt to destroy Sound Transit, and car tab taxes is not the way to go.
    However, what if your transit fares were going to build roadways, how would you feel about that? That is essentially what taking tollway money and putting it to transit would do. If we create tollways, we ought to keep the money in maintaining and improving the tollways, and it ought not go elsewhere, in exactly the same way rail-transit fares ought never to go to building a road.
    And I think red light cameras are a farce, I’ve seen studies that go both ways on it, I simply prefer not to have the government intruding in my life that much, it isn’t their job to be my nanny.

    1. Re tolling, it depends on what your justification for tolling is. If you think of it as a way to control congestion, it makes sense to take some of the revenue and devote it to providing a commute alternative which frees people from having to pay the toll, and simultaneously provides more congestion relief.

      1. Would you stand by me using that logic to say Tokyo should divert transit fares from their WAYY Overcrowded metro to build some freeways to relieve congestion?

      2. Tolling is a way for the primary users of a[n expensive] facility to pay the major proportion of the cost of that facility. Essentially, the non-transit, road version of “Farebox Recovery”.

        I would go along with road tolling being dedicated to said roads, only if any other taxes used for roads (i.e. property and sales taxes) were restricted from being used for roads, unless by a vote of the people.

        I’ll have to say, I’m with Mr. Tim on the Red-Light camera issue. Unless we had a way that the duration of the yellow light was regulated by an outside agency, insuring the same, reasonable duration.

      3. To Alex, I’d rather not get up in front of those Tokyo commuters and tell them how their government should spend its money. But I do think we here in Washington State dedicate too much of our tax and fee revenue. That’s one of the issues I had with I-1098 and and KC Prop. 1. That said, I think the first dip of any fee revenue collected should be to offset the cost of collection.

        Re red light cameras, I don’t oppose them per-say. I do have some concern that their primary function should be to enhance safety and improve compliance, and not to enhance revenue collection, or to enrich some private company that promotes installing cameras, and then handles collections.

      4. That is a fair assessment I think, and I soo agree on the yellow light issue, thats my biggest problem with the cameras, I have friends from michigan who go to school here in Chicago, and every year when they come back from summer, they get a stack of tickets because chicago’s red light camera’s are set to a shorter yellow, that they aren’t used to when they return.

        You cannot argue that the cameras increase safety with things like that happening.

      5. Alex: A much more effective way for Tokyo to relieve congestion would simply be to build more metro lines. If there’s one thing that subway supporters and opponents agree on, it’s that public transit of any sort can move more people with less physical space than cars.

      6. Alex, if freeways actually provided significant congestion relief, that would make sense. But they don’t so it doesn’t. If Tokyo used some metro money to provide, oh, I don’t know, a “cycle superhighway” that might actually be wise.

    2. Re: redlight cameras- So it’s not breaking the law if no one is around to see it?

      And before someone screams “Well then lets put CCTV on every street corner! Big brother! Big brother!” The red light camera is only tripped if you actually break the law, so it is not the same as constant monitoring.

      1. “The red light camera is only tripped if you actually break the law, so it is not the same as constant monitoring.”

        True, although there are some instances of municipalities shortening the yellow cycle to increase revenues as Alex has pointed out – I spoke with a city council member who was ticketed in another jurisdiction. He went back and timed the yellow cycle at something like 2.5 seconds – far less than the recommended 6 second cycle. I haven’t checked up on the details but if stuff like this is going on, it seems like a legitimate complaint.

        Sadly, Eyman will happily latch onto the small minority of examples of jurisdictions that stretch the rules to show that ALL government is too big and corrupt. Frankly, the legislature could get out in front of this by passing a law requiring yellow cycles to have a reasonable length. A law like this would probably defang a lot of the resistance to red light cameras. (And frankly, not make them attractive as a revenue generator)

        I support camera enforcement as an option but I understand the potential for abuse. My wife was ticketed in Bellevue by driving 35 mph in a school zone. It was the middle of the day with no kids, no buses, very few cars, and only a single pedestrian on the sidewalk. Despite all of that, the lights were flashing telling her she had to drive 20mph instead of the usual 35. FLASH! $124 ticket dropped to $99 during mitigation. It seems obvious to me that this was put in place for revenue, not safety and you bet we’re both mad as hell about it. Despite that though, I’ll never vote for an Eyman initiative – but many folks will.

    3. Tolling for an integrated plan to benefit both transit and roads would be fine. If it were really for both transit and roads, and the transit funds aren’t diverted to roads. But transit deserves a more than 50% share, both to compensate for past underinvestment, and to build the 21st century infrastructure we will increasingly need.

    4. Alex:

      That “what if your transit fares were going to build roadways” question is pretty nonsensical, I think, because it treats having better transit and having better (less-congested) roads as being two separate things — like, you’re saying that we should apply a certain amount of money to transit so that the transit users get their needs met, and then apply a certain amount of money to roads so that the auto drivers get their needs met, and that taking money from the one pool to pay for the other is wrong. This overlooks the fact that basically everyone who uses the roads is a transit user in one sense or another, because even if you never personally get on a bus or train you benefit from having a less-congested road and a faster commute due to the people who are taking buses or trains. Transit users and drivers aren’t two separate categories of person, not just because everyone who drives has the choice of taking a bus or train themselves, but also and more importantly because a driver is inherently and already a mass transit user so long as they benefit from having less congestion on the road.

      Basically, there are two ways to improve road capacity. One way is to add lanes to roads. This is tremendously expensive, and empirical evidence shows that it’s inefficient as far as speeding up peoples’ commutes goes, since even though there’s more capacity, induced demand tends to quickly make the road as slow as it was previously. The other way to improve capacity is to add transit, since a bus can carry many, many more people per foot of road taken up than a car can, and trains are even more efficient. This is less expensive and much more effective at speeding up everyone’s commute than is adding road lanes.

      Sorry for getting long-winded, but, yeah, I think it’s tremendously unfortunate that people tend to think of transit as only being a service for the people who are actually riding on the transit vehicle. The idea that road / single-occupancy vehicle users and transit users are two separate groups whose needs should be funded out of two separate pots of money is predicated on that unfortunately wrong idea.

      1. I acknowledge that transit increases road capacity, however, I still feel that road fund levied on roads should stay with roads Period.
        If you drive in Tacoma perhaps you know why I feel that way. The roads there are HORRIBLE compared to my home burb of Kent.

        I feel like we should focus our building more to the side of transit than roads, however I feel that if we toll a road that money goes to the road, and if we charge fares on busses and trains that money goes to maintaining the busses and trains.

        Mostly I just feel that tolls should go to road maintenance, rather than expansion, as any toll collected will hardly even cover maintenance. And with things like the 520 bridge and the AWV we have to pay for them and diverting any money from tolls will shortchange those projects.

        That and I am somewhat against tolls in general, I love trains, busses, driving, and biking all very much, and I don’t like to feel limited in where I can go/what I can do in any of them.

        I don’t really see why we don’t abolish transit fares all together and just rely on taxes for it (raise them if we have to) that would truly be the best situation for everyone IMO. Freedom of movement on any mode regardless of income (excluding vehicle ownership costs obviously)

      2. Again, a good subway or light rail system functions like a freeway. It has a similar cost and benefit, and people use it for their longer-distance trips or when their trips happen to coincide with the exits. Pitting drivers vs transit riders (as in “this bridge’s tolls can only go to roads”) creates a false us-vs-them. Everybody needs mobility, and all modes of transport should be available so people have a choice. But as the Paris mayor said, having transportation choices doesn’t mean we have to accommodate everybody who wants to drive from one side of the city to the other at 100 km/h. If they want to drive, they can be slower than the BRT buses.

      3. ” Pitting drivers vs transit riders (as in “this bridge’s tolls can only go to roads”) creates a false us-vs-them”

        “having transportation choices doesn’t mean we have to accommodate everybody who wants to drive from one side of the city to the other at 100 km/h. If they want to drive, they can be slower than the BRT buses.”

        Talk about pitting transit vs. SOV drivers.

  11. Initiatives do go both ways. The Seattle Monorail Project is an example — there were several initiatives to get the project started, including one that raised taxes to pay for the monorail. The monorail was never built and the MVET that a whole bunch of people in Seattle paid went to… nothing.

    I take two thing from this:
    1. There are crappy tax-raising initiatives and crappy tax-lowering initiatives.
    2. The government isn’t necessarily a super-smart, organized entity that will always spend its income wisely.

    Tim Eyman is a symptom of citizen frustration in Washington state. You can’t solve the underlying problem by reducing people’s political power (although governments in many different places have tried that apparently simple solution).

    1. Unless it has been amended in the past 2 decades, the Constitution of the State of Washington states that the education of children is the Paramount duty of the State. Well, as I understand, the level of education funding in Washington ranks now at 47th in the United States.

      Seems that the people of Washington in failing to provide an adequate tax base are violating the state constitution. Could this be a basis to unravel the most recent initiatives?

    2. It wasn’t an initiative that killed the Monorail. It was Mayor Nickles and a poor funding plan and gross mismanagement of the project by Joel Horn and company.

      Without the infinitive process it never would have had a chance. Had it been built, we wouldn’t be arguing about a downtown tunnel to replace the viaduct as it would be capable of carrying those folks going from Ballard to Seattle to West Seattle.

  12. The provisions of this initiative that would require the ST bonds to be defeased, and then the ST MVET terminated, would violate the contracts clause of the State Constitution. The bonds to which the MVET revenues are pledged don’t have defeasance provisions, and legislation (even if approved by voters) can’t add terms to an existing contract. The contracts at issue here are the ones ST entered into with the bondholders, and NOTHING Timmy can do now can add in defeasance terms to them. This entire thread is much ado about nothing – even if it passes it’ll get destroyed in Court.

    1. advokat,

      Thanks for the info. The measure actually specifically excludes bonds that cannot be defeased, so it’s not so much threatened in court as not applicable to ST bonds that don’t have those provisions.

      1. @ Martin: Do the 1999-series bonds have a defeasance provision? I know the 2009-series bonds do.

  13. As long as the initiative system exists, the question for me is why isn’t there a similar amount of effort on our side to make use of it? We can even make initiatives that are appealing to low information voters that Eyman targets if we make them about restoring local control. I don’t think people in Walla Walla voted to kill the MVET because they think each county should have a veto on every other county’s taxes, they were just voting against a tax they don’t want to pay. What if Eyman’s “kill the MVET again” initiative appeared next to a “the MVET is hereby killed in every county where it was created without a public vote and can only be raised by a public vote” initiative? That sounds appealing and quite straightforward. I’d like to be able to experiment with congestion tolling and it might be possible to build support for that locally but not in Olympia. Meanwhile Olympia has started a practice of putting tolls on roads before they’ve done any improvements (see 520, Columbia River Crossing). Why not require any toll that’s on something other than a completed project and dedicated to anything other than paying bonds on that project to come to a vote in a set of localities representing a certain fraction (70% maybe?) of the users of that road? We could force existing tolls to a vote (520 would probably win), while also creating an avenue to impose road tolls without any involvement from Olympia. Move the discussion away from “Let’s raise/lower local taxes statewide” to “Let’s give local voters control of local taxes.”

    1. There should be an initiative that requires state tax revenue to be spent in the county from which it is generated. Clearly Eyman and his supporters would get behind that as they don’t like freeloaders.

      1. I’ve sometimes thought about this as well, and the tragedy is that it would probably pass, at least in many of those small counties where voters don’t realize the tax subsidies they get from those big bad counties west of the mountains.

        In fact the more I think about this, the more I think it’s actually a good idea — the small county local elected officials, county commissioners and town mayors and council members, would have to educate their constituents about the reality of tax flows in this state, to convince them to avoid catastrophe by voting against the initiative. And we on the west side would win in such a defeat by having some more knowledgeable voters over there on the dry side.

      2. It’s certainly interesting as a way to inform the low information voters, but I also think there are some things we could do that might actually be great policy. We might be able to convince voters to support replacing the initiative controlling the growth of property tax revenue with one controlling an individual’s property tax growth but allowing governments to grow at wage inflation * population growth.

      3. There was one years ago that stated that gas taxes could only be spent in the county from which it was collected. It never got on the ballot.

      4. There was one years ago that stated that gas taxes could only be spent in the county from which it was collected. It never got on the ballot.

        That was the struggle the elected officials were having when (the first) Prop 1, the Roads and Transit Initiative, was being crafted.

        Pierce and Snohomish were demanding a Roads version of “Sub-area Eguity”.

      5. at least in many of those small counties where voters don’t realize the tax subsidies they get from those big bad counties west of the mountains

        If county-equity passes, we would probably still have to subsidize the smaller eastern counties, but it would be an explicit, transparent subsidy. Then there would be no more, “My taxes go to Olympia/DC and nothing comes back.”

  14. Folks,

    Ignore Bailo. Since the Republicans have won so handily at the national level, the complete unwillingness of Americans to pay for their government has been made manifestly clear to the surplus nations of the world.

    Helicopter Ben is revving up the choppers, which merely ratifies the conclusion.

    Whether Congress votes to raise the debt limit or not, the rest of the world is going to be yawning at a Treaury auction soon. No sellee new bondees, no pay off oldee bondees.

    Yankee Dollah in crapper.

    Oil $15/bbl.

    Result: LOTS of space on I-90.

  15. Tim’s brilliant. He capitalizes on voter apathy and a hunger for simple solutions to complex problems, a.k.a. a “have your cake and eat it, too” desire, and he makes a good living while doing so, whether they pass or not. Of course, if they pass, it gives his ego a bigger refill. With initiative 1053, he’s successfully frozen government in time, and voters will feel the changes across the board this time. Chances are, the government will remain too timid to broach renegotiating generous – especially in current times – contracts with unions, and even if they do, unions will no doubt remain steadfast in not giving any gains up. Therefore, their least-senior members will get the ax, but this time they won’t be recalled, for the growth of revenues won’t routinely eclipse that of expenses any more. Cuts will become regular, and the availability of services will decline until – and if – voters get fed up enough. In transportation, this will mean fewer and fewer ferries, cops, potholes being filled, accidents being cleared, rural bus routes, dangerous segments of roads fixed, driver’s license office hours, etc.

    1. Brilliant? Brilliant would be coming up with solutions. He’s a salesman. Sales is a talent, no doubt. Realizing that selling initiatives is more lucrative than selling watches isn’t brilliance but he does have talent as a salesman. If the whole initiative gig dries up I’m sure he’ll do fine with used cars or timeshares.

    2. The problem is not whether somebody is making money sponsoring initiatives. The problem is the destruction in government services these initiatives cause. Each of these initiatives is dangerous, and I don’t care how much money Eyman makes.

  16. Could we perhaps get a compromise amendment? No funding-related initiatives? If you want to kill a project, your initiative must attack the project.

    1. I think an amendment that requires all initiatives to be budget neutral would be a very positive improvement: cut taxes, identify the matching spending cuts; mandate class sizes, also approve the taxes to pay for it; and so on.

      1. Also, an amendment clarifying that you only get to vote on the taxes/spending of your own government. No statewide vote to defund Sound Transit, statewide votes should only be able to affect statewide taxes/spending, only local votes should affect local taxes/spending.

  17. When the legislature once again negates Timmy’s latest stupid scheme, maybe the people will finally figure out this guy is just a leech who lives off the stupidity and cheapness of others.

  18. You know, one good thing about Eyman’s victory on the 2/3 majority is that the legislature now can’t instantly send new taxes to bad projects. Judy Clibborn and Mary Margaret Haugen are in the PI talking about the Columbia River Crossing and other non-maintenance projects like “widening of Highway 167 south to Tacoma, building a new Highway 509 segment between Sea-Tac Airport and I-5”

  19. The single best good-governance reform possible in Washington State is to amend this power away

    Martin is absolutely right. Eyman isn’t the biggest worry though. Washington’s initiative laws combined with current campaign spending law allows large out of state interests to affect our election with almost zero disclosure. It has to change. Ironic that Tim Eyman may turn out to be the catalyst that makes it happen.

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