When new is old: Eyman’s scheme to restrict tolls based off a recycled provision from failed I-985

Statements & AdvisoriesThreat Analysis

Yesterday, through the Associated Press, Tim Eyman announced that he intends to try to qualify an initiative for the 2011 November ballot, after initially planning to take a year off due to lack of access to a wealthy benefactor.

The scheme Eyman says he’s running with was filed back in January, and was assigned the number 1125 by the Secretary of State.

What Eyman neglected to mention in his announcement is that I-1125 is based on recycled provisions from Initiative 985, which voters overwhelmingly rejected more than two years ago.

The provisions in question sought to constrain the Legislature’s toll-setting authority in almost exactly the same ways: first, by trying to prevent the Legislature from delegating its toll-setting authority to the Transportation Commission, and second, to prevent toll money from being used for anything except projects concerning the facility where each dollar in toll revenue was originally collected.

In 2008, we argued that these and other provisions in Initiative 985 would lead to more traffic and less flexibility for planners working to alleviate our region’s traffic problems. Voters resoundingly agreed: 59% of those participating in the 2008 presidential election voted I-985 down.

“If Tim Eyman respected the will of the people, he wouldn’t be running Initiative 1125,” said NPI founder Andrew Villeneuve.

“The people have already decided this question. They said no to Initiative 985 in a landslide only two and a half years ago. They made it plainly clear they weren’t interested in Tim Eyman’s plot to hamstring the Legislature and WSDOT.”

“But Tim has shown that he only cares about the outcome of elections when voters make the mistake of agreeing with him. I-985’s failure is immaterial to him; as far as he’s concerned, I-985’s defeat never happened. I-985 never happened.”

“When Tim first began running initiatives over a decade ago, his target was our common wealth. Since the mid-2000s, he’s moved on to a bigger, more ambitious target: Representative democracy. Quite simply, Tim Eyman wants to undo the plan of government our founders gave us, because he doesn’t like how it works.”

“That’s why he keeps proposing initiatives designed to paralyze the Legislature. His mantra is that there should be a public vote on any decision of importance. How many times have we heard him say, ‘Let the voters decide’? But in a representative democracy, the voters do get to decide. They choose who represents them in the Legislature every two and every four years. Eyman just doesn’t like most of the representatives the people have chosen. So he’s responded by trying to subvert our Constitution and cripple the institutions it created.”

“If voters continue to go along with Eyman, which would be a tragedy, it wouldn’t be long before our Legislature was reduced to little more than a ceremonial body, unable to govern as our founders intended it to.”

“We cannot allow this to happen. Washington simply cannot afford any more undemocratic, ill-conceived Tim Eyman initiatives. Our economy can’t afford it, our common wealth can’t afford it, and our quality of life can’t afford it.”

The Tacoma News Tribune’s Jordan Schrader has astutely noted that the Supreme Court has previously ruled that the people “cannot, by initiative, prevent future legislatures from exercising their law-making power.” This ruling was referenced in an opinion released by Rob McKenna’s office in December, which concluded the Legislature is free to re-delegate its toll setting authority as it wishes.

While that may be the case, there are other provisions in I-1125 that may not be so easily reversed.

It remains to be seen whether Tim Eyman has a wealthy benefactor lined up to fund I-1125. He needs one, especially with only ten weeks to collect signatures. If he doesn’t have one, there’s no way I-1125 can get on the ballot.

If petitions become available for I-1125, we will strongly urge the people of Washington State to think before they ink and decline to sign this latest Eyman plot.

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