Failure of Tim Eyman’s I-864 is worthy of celebration

Washington’s communities have achieved a masterful victory this year over initiative profiteer Tim Eyman.

Initiative 864, which would have devastated public services, has failed to qualify for the ballot.

Elected leaders responsible for overseeing fire districts, libraries, and other public services can breathe a collective sigh of relief and pass on the good news to their constituents.

The death of Initiative 864 is another significant milestone in the history of initiative profiteer Tim Eyman. And, once again, Eyman has proved that there is no grassroots movement behind his initiative factory.

Eyman couldn’t manage to gather more than 160,000 signature — well short of the number required and much shorter than the number needed to get on the ballot once errors and duplicate signatures are tossed out.

Eyman began planning what became Initiative 864 in the spring of 2003, even before the death of I-807, announcing he would launch an initiative to gut property taxes as a way to get revenge on lawmakers for increasing the gas tax by a nickel.

Eyman originally targeted the state property tax levy, but switched gears and went after local property taxes instead.

For six months, Eyman actively campaigned on behalf of the initiative, printing up petitions and mailing out to supporters. But as the months wore on, Eyman realized he had made a mistake. He had assumed there’d be a groundswell he could tap into to get on the ballot without big money. But there wasn’t.

Even conservative elected officials spoke out against I-684.

The Association of Washington Cities opposed the initiative and alerted its members to the cost and consequences I-864 would inflict if implemented. Community leaders saw the danger and spoke out as well.

The diehards who stuck with Eyman and contributed to the I-864 campaign found themselves abandoned in March of 2004 when Eyman struck up a friendship with the gambling industry to sell I-892, which would expand gambling dramatically and use taxed proceeds to finance a property tax cut.

Eyman also began paying himself $3,100 a week shortly after I-892 was announced.

It soon became apparent that Eyman was focusing his energies on Initiative 892 and was ignoring the effort he had begun in June of 2003, as well those followers who had stood by him since it was first announced.

The $3,100 a week salary, the “Help Us Help Taxpayers compensation fund”, and the concealed siphoning of campaign money in 2000 and 2001 shows that Eyman is first and foremost about helping himself. He profits whether he wins or loses. And lately, he’s been losing. Three of his past four initiatives have failed to qualify for the ballot (I-267, I-807, I-864) while I-892 only made it because of the gambling industry.

Eyman is now a front man and a tool for special interests like the gambling industry. He seemingly no longer cares about projecting his faux grassroots image, only about cashing in on donations from out of state and foreign corporations which have their eyes on swindling voters and drowning out Native American tribes.

I-864’s demise is a defeat for Tim and his cadre of radicals who falsely believe that gutting our common wealth will benefit everyone. The true path to prosperity is through cooperation and collaboration, which is what taxation is all about. Washington’s communities are the true victors of this battle against I-864.

Permanent Defense will continue its work fighting future Eyman initiatives and laying the groundwork for real tax reform, as a project of the Northwest Progressive Institute.

Despite pouring a year’s worth of energy into Initiative 864 (or almost a year: the last three months are questionable) Eyman could not qualify the initiative. He could not find the big bucks necessary to pay for hordes of paid signature gatherers to go out and dupe voters.

Eyman promises to be back next year, but he will be starting over, and facing a number of new challenges.

High turnout for the 2004 presidential election and the gubernatorial race will increased the number of signatures required to get on the ballot – perhaps significantly. The number of signatures required is based on 8% of the number of citizens that voted in the previous gubernatorial election.

Eyman will also have to deal with the changing economics of the shady signature gathering industry. Paid signature gatherers are demanding more and more for their efforts.

If Eyman spent a year on I-864 and couldn’t make it, the chances that he will make it in 2005 with something similar are slim. Washingtonians, especially local officials, should be vigilant and ready to counter Eyman come January 2005.

For now, I-864 is dead, and the people of Washington State have a reason to celebrate. The initiative Tim Eyman called the “homecoming game” of his career has met its end. Eyman has lost, and the people of Washington State have won through their refusal to support the initiative.

Good for them.

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