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November 11, 2013 at 6:00 AM
I don’t share the media cynicism about the five tax-advisory questions the people of Washington voted on last week. Media folks are parroting politicians, and politicians have motives that are different from those of ordinary people.
It’s true that the advisory votes don’t determine anything. The tax is in effect already. If the people vote “Repeal,” the tax is not repealed.
Why have a vote, then? To tell the voter, who hasn’t been paying attention to this stuff, that there have been tax increases. How many people knew that there had been five such increases, or tax breaks erased, in the 2013 legislative session? Not one in 100 knew this. Three of the five changes were tiny taxes and four applied only to a few people. Still, they were increases that added up to hundreds of millions of dollars over 10 years, and the Voters Pamphlet told citizens about them.
“They made people think. How can that not be good?” says Tim Eyman. The advisory votes were last defined and put into law in Eyman’s Initiative 1185, which voters supported in 2012. The other part of 1185 was the rule that the Legislature required two-thirds of both houses to raise taxes, or a simple majority plus a vote of the people. The Washington Supreme Court nullified that part. The advisory votes are all that’s left of this measure to slow down tax increases.
Initiative 1185 includes a part of the Voter’s Pamphlet that lists the legislators and how they voted on tax increases. For example, in the 26th district, you could see that Sen. Nathan Schlicher, D-Gig Harbor, and his challenger, Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, had voted “Yes” on the three little increases. They had voted “No” on the increase in the telephone tax, a fairly substantial increase that affected a lot of people. On the retroactive enactment of an estate tax, a big increase to a small group of people, Schlicher had voted “Yes” and Angel had voted “No.”
Was that worth knowing? Maybe it was, if you were in the 26th district. (more…)
March 4, 2013 at 6:00 AM
A reader sends the following criticism of my column on Tim Eyman’s Initiative 517:
I read with shock and disbelief that The Seattle Times supported Mr. Eyman’s latest initiative, I-517: “I-517 helps community activists take the initiative,” Opinion, Bruce Ramsey, The Seattle Times, Feb. 27, 2013.
What kind of “community activist” supports Tim Eyman?
Who paid for I-1185? Answer: British Petroleum, Conoco Phillips, Phillips 66, And The Beer Institute.
A “community activist” is someone who wants to improve the quality of life for the community. Mr. Eyman’s I-1053 was opposed by over 150 organizations, unions, and non-profits. Each of these is a real community activist. A King County Superior Court Judge found I-1053 unconstitutional, and now the State Supreme Court has also found it unconstitutional.
Is Tim Eyman the King of the State of Washington and is Washington State a monarchy? What if this “king” decided to eliminate all funding for public education and public transit by lowering taxes 30%? Could anyone stop him and his “armies”, the petition gatherers? Can’t you and your staff see the damage that this “king” is doing to the State of Washington?
Corrupt leaders generally don’t like Freedom of Speech. What if you criticized “the king” and he retaliated by passing an initiative to stop publishing the Seattle Times? Would it be okay if the Seattle Times lost 400 employees as the state’s population went up by an average of 70,000 a year? Who would defend you?
Let’s take it one at a time. First, my correspondent refers to a signed column, which is my opinion, not The Times’ opinion. This reply is also my opinion, not the company’s.
The column was about a provision of Initiative 517: that if a local initiative has enough valid signatures, neither the local government or anyone else can have a court remove it from the ballot. The opponents can sue after it passes. I argued that this helps community activists, and I led the column with an activist from the left.
March 1, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Rain blew sideways off Capitol Lake as the first Tweets, just before 9 a.m., suggested the upside-down politics of Olympia this year would be upended again.
The Supreme Court shredded Initiative 1053, decrying the initiative’s two-thirds super-majority requirement for new taxes as “enabling a tyranny of the minority.”
In Olympia this year, the definition of tyrannical minority has depended on your flavor of politics. Republicans, technically a minority, are now the Majority Coalition. Democrats, withered by two defections, are the majority-minority, and chafe at what they describe is a tyranny.
Democrats couldn’t help but take a victory lap.
Yes, Democrats are happy. State Rep. Laurie Jinkins jokes that “later today, we’ll do a dramatic reading of the decision.” #waleg
— Brian M. Rosenthal (@brianmrosenthal) February 28, 2013
(Jinkins, D-Tacoma, was a plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging I-1053.)
The Supreme Court said a super-majority for taxes would have to occur via constitutional amendment. Sen. Rodney Tom, the Medina Democrat who engineered the Republican coup, quickly disagreed, suggesting the Senate may simply change rules to require the two-third level.
But his fellow Republicans seemed to just as quickly throw him under the bus: Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, showed up at a press conference wearing a demanding that constitutional amendment. Late in the day, the Majority Coalition passed a bill out of the Ways & Means committee calling for an amendment.
Rep. Chris Hurst, moderate Democrat from Enumclaw, said the Supreme Court will “regret their choice of words” in referring to the super-majority rule – embraced by voters at least four in separate initiatives – as “tyranny of the minority.” The line smacks of political bomb-throwing, not judicial sobriety.
The biggest bomb thrower, Tim Eyman, used to show up in a gorilla suit for press conferences. Thursday, he wore a brown suit and long face. He repeated “1.9 million voters” – the number who voted for the initiative the Supreme Court tossed out – at least five times. He didn’t call Gov. Jay Inslee “a lying whore,” as he did last week.
As Tim Eyman walked away from the press outside the Capitol – the biggest clue this was an upside-down day in Olympia – Sen. Adam Kline, who had stepped outside for a cigarette, taunted him. “Tim, where is the fraud in the budget?” said Kline. “All these (tax-cutting initiatives) are premised on fraud, waste and abuse being in the budget.”
Eyman kept walking. “Can’t tell, Tim?” Kline yelled. He then turned to the reporters and blasted Eyman’s initiative – the one endorsed by 1.9 million voters – for “encoding the tyranny of the minority” in state law.