For the record, Tim Eyman’s “jaw-dropping” tax hikes figure is a big fake

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

For the past few weeks, Tim Eyman has been peppering the emails he sends to his followers and to the mass media with references to a $17.5 billion figure — the amount Eyman claims that taxes were increased by the Washington State Legislature in 2015. This number has begun showing up in just about every message that Eyman sends. Here are some examples (note that this is not an exhaustive list, but does contain most of the various permutations we could find):

  • Eyman, September 2nd, 2015: “Certainly the $17.5 billion in higher taxes imposed by this year’s Legislature vividly illustrates why I-1366 is necessary.”
  • Eyman, September 9th, 2015: “[L]ike this year’s session without the 2/3: this year they raised taxes a jaw-dropping $17.5 billion.”
  • Eyman, September 11th, 2015: “This year’s Legislature raised taxes a jaw-dropping $17.5 billion because last year’s tax initiative didn’t succeed.”
  • Eyman, September 14th, 2015: ” This year’s Legislature raised taxes a jaw-dropping $17.5 billion.”
  • Eyman, September 18th, 2015: “This year was different: the 2015 Legislature raised taxes a jaw-dropping $17.5 billion.”
  • Eyman, September 24th, 2015: “Olympia raised taxes a jaw-dropping $17.5 billion this session.”
  • Eyman, October 4th, 2015: “This year’s Legislature raised taxes a jaw-dropping $17.5 billion.”
  • Eyman, October 16th, 2015: “Olympia raised taxes a jaw-dropping $17.5 billion this year…”
  • Eyman, October 20th, 2015: “He [Inslee] was the biggest cheerleader for the jaw-dropping $17.5 billion in tax hikes this session.”
  • Eyman, October 26th, 2015 (just yesterday): “[A]ll we’re hearing about from politicians is the supposed necessity of $17.5 billion in additional taxes imposed over the next 10 years for more government spending (which is on top of the jaw-dropping $17.5 billion in higher taxes from this year’s legislative session).”

Eyman never cites any source for this number, and that’s probably because our research shows it’s a fabricated figure with no basis in fact.

The 2015 Washington State Legislature did vote to raise revenue several times — and, it should be noted, on a bipartisan basis! — but the totals of those increases do not sum to $17.5 billion, not even projected out over ten years.

Whenever the Legislature considers a bill that would increase tax revenue, Tim Eyman’s I-960 (from 2007) requires the Office of Financial Management to flag the bill and calculate, over ten years, the amount of revenue that would be increased.

If the bill ultimately becomes law, Eyman’s I-960 further requires that there be an “advisory vote” on it the following November. These unconstitutional “advisory votes” (which are really akin to push polls because they ask loaded questions) have been appearing on our ballots every year since 2012. This year, there were four bills that increased tax revenue, and so became the subject of “advisory votes”:

We can calculate how much the Legislature increased taxes in 2015 by looking at the estimated fiscal impact of these four bills. Through the end of 2017, it is as follows:

  • ESHB 1449: $5,592,000
  • 2SSB 5052: $551,000
  • 2ESSB 5987: $645,188,840
  • ESSB 6138: $162,461,000

Total Through 2017: $813,792,840

If the estimates are correct, by the end of 2017, the state will collect about $813 million in additional tax revenue as a result of bills passed in the 2015 long session and subsequent special sessions, with the vast majority (over three fourths) going to transportation projects. That’s a far cry from $17.5 billion – Eyman’s phony figure.

Again, as mentioned, we can’t even replicate Eyman’s phony figure by stretching out the amount of the revenue increases over ten years, which is well beyond the period of time for which the Legislature has budgeted.

  • Ten-year total for ESHB 1449: $29,072,000
  • Ten-year total for 2SSB 5052: $4,061,000
  • Ten-year total for 2ESSB 5987: $5,221,111,220
  • Ten-year total for ESSB 6138: $1,448,570,000

Total Through 2025: $6,702,814,220.00

These ten-year totals sum to $6.7 billion, not $17.5 billion.

As we have documented, Tim Eyman has been throwing around this $17.5 billion figure for weeks, as if it is unquestioned fact. But it’s actually a fabricated number.

We arrived at the figures in this analysis by doing some simple arithmetic and showing our work, which is a basic principle of mathematics taught and emphasized to Washington’s students on a daily basis.

As we can find no basis for the $17.5 billion figure Eyman has been using, not even after checking with the Office of Financial Management, and as Eyman has produced no documentation to justify it, we’re left to conclude that Eyman made it up.

This is the latest addition to a large body of evidence that demonstrates that Eyman cannot be trusted as a reliable source of information.

The truth about taxes in Washington: We invest less in our public services than most other states
Statement on the early 2015 general election returns

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