May 5th, 2015
Anatomy of a Tim Eyman email: Sound bites based on lies, fudged numbers, and missing context
Rethinking and Reframing
Yesterday morning, Tim Eyman sent out another one of his misinformation-laden missives, ending, as always, with an exhortation to send money to his campaign coffers. On occasion, we fisk and debunk Eyman’s emails to demonstrate that Eyman is not a reputable or trustworthy source of information.
We’re going to do that again today.
This post will examine what is in Eyman’s email (sound bites based on lies, fudged numbers) and what is not (missing context).
Let’s get started.
Sound bites based on lies
EYMAN ARGUMENT: “The 2/3 policy is a shield that protects everyone. United we stand, divided we fall.”
REALITY: Requiring a two-thirds vote to raise revenue is undemocratic, goes against the values that our state and country were founded on, and results in the few having power over the many, as this pictogram explains:
Washington has repeatedly been ranked as having the nation’s most regressive tax system. It’s regressive because those with the least pay the most in taxes as a percentage of their income, while those with the most pay the least. That’s backwards.
The effect of requiring a two-thirds vote to raise or recover revenue for the state treasury is to lock this regressive system into place, removing the legislative process as an avenue for tax reform. That’s the only thing Eyman’s initiatives actually protect. We all ultimately lose – not win – when majority rule is taken away.
Past initiatives to sabotage majority rule, particularly I-1053 and I-1185, were financed by big oil companies, Wall Street banks, and trade groups that have a vested interest in keeping Washington’s broken, outdated, and regressive tax system the way it is.
EYMAN ARGUMENT: “The 2/3 vote requirement for higher taxes protects all of us — individuals and businesses — from Olympia’s insatiable tax appetite.”
REALITY: Olympia is a city, not another name for the Washington State Legislature.
The people of Washington do not need to be protected from their own representatives. Washington is a democracy; the people are in charge and have the power to hire and fire all one hundred forty-seven members of the Legislature, as well as the governor, the executive department, and the justices of the Supreme Court, at regularly-held elections and special elections in case of a vacancy.
Contrary to what Eyman claims, the Legislature rarely votes to raise taxes, even when the Constitution’s Article II, Section 22 (which requires a majority vote for passage of bills) has been followed. Most bills introduced in the House or Senate to raise or recover revenue for the state treasury never become law.
The Legislature’s failure to fix our broken, outdated tax system is negatively impacting our economy and our way of life. Washington currently ranks thirty-fifth in the nation when our state and local taxes are compared to those of other states. That means a majority of states in the Union are investing more than we are in their public services.
All Washington households and businesses rely on our state’s public services – schools, ports, libraries, parks, police, fire, paramedics, hospitals, universities, roads, transit – every day of every year. Our public services are the foundation of our economy, and it is important that we strengthen them, not underfund them.
Taxation is the means by which we pool our resources to get things done. There is wide agreement in principle that taxes should be fairly levied, accurately collected, properly deposited, and responsibly spent, which is why the most important duty of our elected representatives is to write and pass a budget. Budgeting decisions should be made democratically, reflecting the will of the people of Washington. Requiring a two-thirds vote for some budgeting decisions but not others is undemocratic and violates the values our state was founded on.
EYMAN ARGUMENT: “It is critical we get the 2/3-For-Taxes Constitutional Amendment Initiative on the ballot… Voters deserve the chance to put the 2/3 protection in our state Constitution.”
REALITY: There is no such thing as a constitutional amendment initiative – it’s a fiction created by Eyman. In Washington State, all constitutional amendments must originate in the Legislature. The Constitution cannot be amended by initiative.
I-1366 would not change the Washington State Constitution if enacted. What it actually does is cut the state sales tax from 6.5% to 5.5%, resulting in the loss of a billion dollars a year from the state treasury, if the Legislature does not adopt a constitutional amendment to overturn the League of Education Voters decision.
Eyman’s email touting his successes consists of numbers that are blatantly inaccurate and inconsistently rounded.
EYMAN CLAIM: ” In 2012, during that high turnout presidential year, our 2/3 initiative passed with 2/3 approval: 1.9 million voters.”
REALITY: Had I-1185 been required to pass by its own two-thirds standard, it would have failed. Two-thirds is equivalent to 66.67%; I-1185 did not receive that level of support. See the actual numbers on the Secretary of State’s website.
EYMAN CLAIM: “In 1999 (and ever since), 56% of voters approved lower car tabs but everyone’s car tabs were reduced, even the 44% who voted no.”
REALITY: Here Eyman is referring to I-695. It received a 56.16% yes vote/43.84% no vote in a local election year in which voter turnout was 57%. King County, the state’s largest, voted the initiative down, as did San Juan and Whatcom counties. Following the election, I-695 was struck down as unconstitutional by the Washington State Supreme Court, and later reinstated by the Legislature.
EYMAN CLAIM: “In 2001 (and ever since), 58% of voters approved a 1% limit on property tax levy increases but everyone’s property taxes were limited, even the 42% who voted no.”
REALITY: Here Eyman is referring to I-747. It actually received a 57.55% yes vote/42.44% no vote in a local election year in which voter turnout was 44.51%. King County, the state’s largest, voted the initiative down, as did Whitman County in eastern Washington. Several years after the election, I-747 was struck down as unconstitutional by the Washington State Supreme Court, and reinstated shortly afterwards by the Legislature.
EYMAN CLAIM: “In 2007, 2010, and 2012, huge majorities of voters approved the 2/3 protection but everyone was protected afterwards, even those who voted no.”
REALITY: Eyman’s I-960, the 2007 initiative, did not get a “huge majority”. It passed in a local election year with 51.24% of the vote; 48.76% voted no. And it’s worth noting that voter turnout in the 2007 general election was just 50.04%. Barely half of the state’s registered voters participated in the election.
It is fair to say that large majorities voted for I-1053 in 2010 and I-1185 in 2012. However, those initiatives were not met with the kind of early, organized opposition they should have faced. Only $98,016.26 was spent against I-1185 in 2012, and of the $1,638,970.66 spent against I-1053 in 2010, the vast majority of contributions and expenditures (90%+) came at the end of the campaign, in October, when voting had begun and when it was getting late to influence the outcome.
Eyman’s email fails to mention any of his failures and thus does not accurately present his record. Voters have rejected a number of Eyman schemes to gut funding for public services, mess with transportation policy, and allow electronic slot machines outside of tribal reservations. Eyman’s defeats at the ballot include the following:
- I-745 in 2000
- I-892 in 2004
- I-985 in 2008
- I-1033 in 2009
- I-1125 in 2011
- I-517 in 2013
Additionally, most of the Eyman initiatives that have been passed by voters have been struck down by the Supreme Court in whole or in part as unconstitutional, including I-695 and I-747 (previously mentioned).
For more details, see Tim Eyman’s Failure Chart.