Senate Republicans want to raise most Washingtonians’ property taxes — and Tim Eyman is okay with that

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

Late this morning, former initiative promoter (and now Republican lobbyist) Tim Eyman sent out his latest electronic screed, in which he again attacked House Democrats for proposing a budget that would levy a capital gains excise tax and close tax exemptions that are no longer in the public interest to fund K-12 education.

“Democrats are constantly searching for the next white whale of taxes,” Eyman ranted. “But their tax appetite is insatiable. There’s simply not enough money in the world to satisfy them. Seriously, how much is enough? Would a sales tax rate of 15% satisfy them? If property taxes were doubled tomorrow, would they finally shut up? No.”

Washington actually ranks ranks below most other states with respect to state and local tax obligations. But it’s no secret that our upside tax code is the most regressive in the nation. That’s why Governor Inslee and House Democrats declined to propose increasing the state sales tax in their budgets. Nor are they proposing to increase property taxes.

But Senate Republicans are.

Why is Tim Eyman shaking his fist at House Democrats, when it’s Senate Republicans who are pushing to raise property taxes on all but a handful of Washingtonians?

A staff analysis by the nonpartisan House Office of Program Research finds that taxpayers in all but three of Washington’s two hundred and ninety five school districts would see noticeable increases in their property taxes under the Senate Republicans’ levy swipe scheme. However, despite the property tax increases, total funding per student would be nowhere close to the levels that the House Democratic budget would fund.

“The average funding increase per student in School Year 2020-21 (when both plans would be fully implemented) would be $2,926 under the Democratic plan and only $1,913 under the Republican plan,” House Democrats contend.

“Total net new funding statewide over the next four school years would be $8.5 billion under the Democratic plan, and only $4.5 billion under the Republican plan.”

House Democrats have proposed a budget that bolsters the state’s investment in its schools without raising sales or property taxes, which Eyman declared today are too high. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have proposed a budget that raises property taxes on most Washingtonians while leaving our schools with less money. What a scam!

Two years ago, when Senate Republicans proposed a similar scheme, Eyman went ballistic and called on Governor Jay Inslee to save the day. Said Eyman on April 23rd, 2015:

RE: Senate Republicans propose massive property tax hike — will Inslee save the day?

Candidate Inslee ridiculed the so-called “property tax levy swap.” He repeatedly called it a “gimmick”. He said it was “a classic maneuver by politicians in Olympia.” He said it was a “shell game” that raised taxes on nearly half of all property tax payers. He tore into it with vigor and verve. He was emphatic. He was unambiguous.

The people elected a man who adamantly opposed this.

Will Governor Inslee come riding to the rescue when it comes to the Senate Republicans’ bill (Senate Bill 6109) which does exactly what he ridiculed? In today’s Tacoma News Tribune, they report the Republicans’ bill “would raise property taxes in more than 40 percent of Washington’s school districts.”

Inslee despised it as a candidate, will he stop it as Governor? Can we count on him to protect us from this massive property tax hike?

Fast forward two years, and Eyman’s singing a completely different tune.

He’s offered nothing but praise for the Senate Republicans’ levy swipe scheme, calling it “sustainable” and “a serious budget”. Those are words that could be used to describe the fiscally responsible House Democratic budget, but Eyman can’t stomach that proposal because it would require his wealthy benefactors (like Clyde Holland and Kenneth Fisher) to pay more in dues to our state to support our schools through a capital gains excise tax.

Even though Fisher and Holland have left Eyman high and dry for the second year in a row (without money from benefactors like them, Eyman can’t get on this year’s ballot), he’s still determined to go to the mat to defend their interests.

Eyman was willing two years ago to openly criticize his own party for proposing to increase property taxes as part of its response to the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. He was vocally opposed. But not anymore. In the span of two years, Eyman went from ardent levy swipe critic to enthusiastic booster.

Who could have imagined that one day, Tim Eyman would be on the record in support of legislation that increases property taxes on most Washingtonians?

These are strange times, indeed.

It’s especially ironic given that Eyman aspires to be on the 2017 ballot with an initiative that would dramatically cut property taxes.

But that initiative, I-1550, isn’t going anywhere… because Eyman’s wealthy benefactors have refused to provide the cash Eyman would need to finance a signature drive.

With Eyman’s initiative factory idle, the state’s most notorious initiative pitchman is now just a Republican lobbyist parroting the party line.

The invective and hyperbole in Eyman’s multiweekly emails is still largely the same, but it’s no longer aimed generally at any elected representatives who dare to suggest an increase in revenue to fund vital public services. Instead, it’s aimed solely at Democrats.

What a boon for Senate Republicans. Two years ago, Eyman was unleashing his ire (and that of his shrinking base) on them for proposing an increase in property taxes. Now, they get a pass from him while Democrats get a double helping of his invective. Such a deal!

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