Category Archives: Legislation & Testimony

State Representative Marko Liias: Tim Eyman is an ignorant blowhard

Legislation & Testimony

State Representative Marko Liias, who has the unfortunate distinction of having Tim Eyman as a constituent, says he’s had it with the watch salesman-turned-initiative promoter after Eyman harshly berated Liias for introducing a bill allowing Western Washington transit agencies to raise revenue through vehicle fees.

Liias gave Eyman a piece of his mind in a Facebook note posted last night. It read, in part:

I have proposed a simple little bill to give local transit agencies one way to protect transit service and reduce congestion.  My bill would let local elected officials vote on a temporary charge of up to $30 to support local transit service.  That’s it.  I want to let local community leaders make a decision about local infrastructure.

And it’s no blank check, either.  They have to write a plan on how the new funds will help reduce congestion, and they have to report on their progress.  And did I mention that the new congestion reduction charge is temporary?  The bill expires at the end of 2013.

But, Tim Eyman sees this as an opportunity to grandstand and beat his chest about “his” initiative, and keep the press talking about him.  Well, Tim Eyman, I think you should read your own initiative. It applies to state decisions, not local ones. Unless you want to run for city council and then try and get on the Community Transit board of directors, you should leave these decisions to the folks that do care.

By “your own initiative”, Liias means Initiative 1053, Eyman’s most recent, which reimposed the unconstitutional “two-thirds” threshold for raising revenue that been established by I-960 and I-601 before it. None of the aforementioned initiatives prevents local governments from democratically voting to raise revenue, or prevents the Legislature from democratically voting to give local governments new revenue-raising authority – although Eyman has drafted a measure to impose a two-thirds threshold on cities, counties, and ports.

Liias is hardly the first legislator or elected leader to voice his frustration with Eyman’s confrontational rhetoric and tactics. He won’t be the last, either. But it’s good he’s standing his ground. The only response Eyman respects is a forceful one. If Democratic representatives reframed aggressively every time Eyman attacked them, Eyman would be on the defensive more often.

RE: What does the phrase ‘Will of the people’ mean to you?

Legislation & TestimonyRethinking and Reframing

Earlier this morning, Tim Eyman sent out an email which asked, in its subject line, “What does the phrase “will of the people” mean to you?” To us, those words mean that our cherished tradition of majority rule must never be compromised. Schemes that take away majority rule (such as Initiative 960 and Initiative 1053) ironically have the effect of infringing upon the will of the people.

Permit us to explain what we mean. In trying to garner publicity for Initiative 1053, Tim Eyman has deceptively tried to frame the effort to amend Initiative 960 as a “we the people versus the Legislature” conflict.

It’s a lie. There is no such conflict. We, the people, elected this Legislature, and we, the people, reelected Governor Chris Gregoire to a second four year term. What’s more, during the last two years we, the people, have rejected not one, but two Tim Eyman initiatives, at the ballot.

In moving to unlock Initiative 960’s shackles, the Legislature is doing precisely what Tim Eyman is attacking it for not doing… responding to the will of the people.

We don’t elect legislators to kowtow to the likes of Tim Eyman, who wants to rip our common wealth to shreds. We elect legislators to govern, wisely and justly. If we do not like the decisions we make, we can choose new leaders. That’s how representative democracy works. Tim Eyman has consistently sought to undermine representative democracy by making it harder for elected leaders to do their jobs and proposing schemes that add undemocratic, un-American hurdles into the legislative process.

Initiative 960, which was approved by a narrow majority in 2007, never should have taken effect, and not just because it is blatantly unconstitutional. It never should have taken effect because we the people have no authority to take away our own rights. Democracy cannot be used to abolish democracy.

A majority of Washingtonians, voting at an election, cannot decide to deprive a future majority of their rights. That this happened and could not be reversed until now is a travesty. The Supreme Court’s refusal to rule on Initiative 960’s constitutionality (the Court was asked to do so twice, in two separate lawsuits) does not make Initiative 960, or Initiative 1053, legitimate.

For additional analysis, check out this post from the NPI Advocate, the blog of our parent organization.

Special session coverage

Legislation & Testimony

Permanent Defense’s parent organization, the Northwest Progressive Institute, has coverage of today’s special session at the Official Blog.

Please view the following posts for more information:

(Last Updated December 3rd, 2007)

Eyman attacks courageous lawmakers

Legislation & TestimonyStatements & Advisories

In an e-mail to supporters today, copied to the media, Tim Eyman tried to attack and vilify lawmakers for their tremendous courage in passing legislation that will move Washington forward.

Tim also revealed that he needs a civic lesson.

If Mr. Eyman knew anything about the government of the United States of America and of the state of Washington, he would know that it is a republic. In a republic, citizens vote to elect representatives who pass laws and run the government. Those representatives are directly responsible to the people.

Mr. Eyman acts as if the legislature does not have the authority to pass a transportation package or increase taxes to fund safer roads – which the state Constitution explicitly says it does.

Consider the following:

  • Legislators do not need to go to the people to obtain approval for every law they pass. That completely defeats the purpose of a republic and is wholly impractical. Legislators should also not be guided just by past votes on initiatives and referenda. They should look to the future and not the past in determining what is best for the state of Washington.
  • Making tough decisions is difficult. Lawmakers looked to the future of Washington State and saw that more funding would be necessary to invest in a good transportation network. We have crumbling bridges and roadways that need replacing. So they passed a new transportation funding package to invest in our state’s future and our region’s future despite pressure just to maintain the status quo. This was an admirable effort.
  • Similarly, lawmakers made decisions to invest in better education for our state and to not be constrained by supermajority requirements that allow a minority to control tax votes in the state Legislature. If voters don’t like those decisions, they can always elect new representatives. That’s how a republic works.
  • The initiative process has disadvantages. Mr. Eyman says he “reveres” initiatives for their “transparency and consistency”. Initiatives are not transparent. They’re not subject to the legislative process, which allows for public hearings, compromise, amendments, and changes. The legislative process produces better results because it allows for revision and for collaboration. Mr. Eyman’s initiatives have a history of being poorly drafted and unconstitutional.
  • Christine Gregoire’s words are being manipulated. When Gregoire was campaigning for governor, she never said she would be against any tax increases. She did say she was against general increases in the sales tax. Eyman and others are distorting her language to make it appear as if she broke her word.

Lawmakers and members of the media don’t need a lecture from Mr. Eyman on the meaning of courage. This is coming from someone who pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars in supporters’ donations for months while maintaining he was unpaid.

Was that a courageous decision, Mr. Eyman? Was that “having the personal strength and the intestinal fortitude to follow through on your promises”? Of course not.

Tim Eyman is the last person who should be preaching about moral values.

Washington State’s lawmakers and Governor Christine Gregoire, on the other hand, should be praised for their courageous leadership and a legislative session filled with good accomplishments.

Mr. Eyman’s attempts to vilify our state’s leaders should be ignored.

Gov. Gregoire signs performance audit legislation

Legislation & Testimony

Today, in Olympia, Governor Christine Gregoire officially signed into law House Bill 1064, the landmark performance audit legislation long sought by state auditor Brian Sonntag and legislators who hope to improve accountability in government.

House Bill 1064 originally passed the state House of Representatives back in February. The Senate revised the bill and approved it on April 7th.

The revised bill authorizes the state auditor, in collaboration with a Citizen Oversight Board, to develop and implement a plan for performance audits of state government.

The Legislature found that the performance audit activities of the joint legislative audit and review committee (JLARC) should be supplemented by making fuller use of the state auditor’s resources and capabilities.

Thanks to this morning’s signing in the Governor’s Conference Room, the state auditor will have the power to conduct performance audits of state agencies.

Permanent Defense Chair Andrew Villeneuve said of the signing: “This is a clear win for Washington State taxpayers. The Governor and the state legislature have done their job and acted on this important issue.”

The signing of the legislation shows that ill-conceived Initiative 900 from Tim Eyman is not needed. And unlike House Bill 1064, Initiative 900 was not drafted with public input.

Initiative 900 overloads Washington State with audits. It requires every government agency and program in the state, including local governments, to be audited. The state auditor’s office says implementing I-900 would cost $90 million every two years.

The office also says the initiative will require the auditor’s office to expand four times its current size and will take a decade or longer to fully implement.

“Thanks to the Legislature’s action on this issue, and the Governor’s approval, Washington State can move forward,” Villeneuve added. “Initiative 900 doesn’t solve anything. Instead of fixing a problem, this initiative will only create new problems.”

Performance audits bill clears state Legislature

Legislation & Testimony

Yesterday, in Olympia, the Washington State House of Representatives concurred with Senate amendments to House Bill 1064, approving the revised bill with 75 voting yes and 22 voting no. The action sends the performance audit legislation to the desk of Governor Christine Gregoire. The original House Bill 1064 passed back in February. The Senate revised the bill and approved it on April 7th.

The revised bill orders the elected state auditor to hire independent contractors to do annual performance audits of state agencies. A panel of citizens will work with the auditor and produce a yearly report card grading state agencies.

Yesterday, the House gave its consent to those revisions and cleared the legislation to be signed into state law.

Permanent Defense Chair Andrew Villeneuve said of the vote: “This is a clear win for Washington State taxpayers. The state Legislature has acted on this important issue and passed legislation for the governor to sign.”

The passage of the legislation shows that ill-conceived Initiative 900 from Tim Eyman is not needed. And unlike House Bill 1064, Initiative 900 was not drafted with public input.

Initiative 900 overloads Washington State with audits. It requires every government agency and program in the state, including local governments, to be audited. The state auditor’s office says implementing I-900 would cost $90 million every two years.

The office also says the initiative will require the auditor’s office to expand four times its current size and will take a decade or longer to fully implement.

“Thanks to the Legislature’s action on this issue, Washington State can move forward,” Villeneuve added. “Initiative 900 doesn’t solve anything. It’s like enlarging a wound instead of applying a bandage.”

Permanent Defense’s founder testifies in support of HB 1744 before the House Finance Committee

Legislation & Testimony

Editor’s Note: The following are the remarks prepared by Permanent Defense founder Andrew Villeneuve in support of House Bill 1744, which received a public hearing before the House Finance Committee today.

Chairman McIntire, Members of the Committee:

Good afternoon. My name is Andrew Villeneuve. I’m a citizen activist and the founder of Permanent Defense and the Northwest Progressive Institute.

I’m here today to talk to you about a bill before you: HB 1744, an act providing for property tax fairness. I’ve spent a fair amount of time studying our state’s tax structure and the issue of affordable home ownership.

Having read the Washington State tax Structure Study, which was produced by a commission headed by William Gates, Sr. several years ago, I have come to agree with one of its main conclusions: Washington’s tax structure is deplorably regressive… and something needs to be done about it.

As the editorial board of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted a year ago, individuals earning less than $20,000 a year spend nearly sixteen percent of their income paying state and local taxes, while those earning more than $130,000 pay just over four percent.

HB 1744 would provide much-needed property tax fairness by creating a homestead exemption.

A homestead exemption would shield from all local property taxes a portion of a family’s primary residence, equal to twenty percent of the local county’s median property value, and from the state property tax an amount equal to twenty percent of median state property value.

Because this proposal is revenue neutral, the quality of public services would not be affected if it were to be implemented.

This gives the homestead exemption an advantage over other, more draconian proposals, which would cut taxes across the board and hurt local governments and vital public services by taking needed revenue away.

Under this proposal, the vast majority of homeowners in Washington State would see some reduction in their property taxes. Owners of less expensive homes would pay less, and owners of more expensive homes or non-residential property would pay only slight more than they do away.

Middle income Washington homeowners are already paying more than their fair share of income in property taxes. A homestead exemption would help reverse this trend and create a more progressive tax structure.

The issue of affordable home ownership is increasingly becoming more serious.

Yesterday, in an article from the Associated Press entitled “Housing affordability dropping in state”, Glenn Crellin, the director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University, noted: “Affordability is going down, there is no question about it. When you’ve got prices rising as rapidly as they are… it’s hard for incomes to keep up that increase.”

As the article also notes:

The center’s housing affordability index, which measures the ability of a middle income family to purchase a median priced home using a 30 year mortgage at prevailing interest rates, slipped in the fourth quarter to 116.9. That was a 17.5 drop in the past year and the lowest reading since 2000, the report said.

A score of 100 means a typical family makes enough to buy the median home.

When the index is below 100, even repeat buyers face affordability constraints. King County, the state’s largest, has remained below 100 for the past two quarters the report said.

The problem of unaffordable home ownership will not go away by itself. This Legislature, however, has an opportunity to do something.

By shifting tax obligations without hurting local governments, the implementation of a homestead exemption would help make home ownership more affordable for middle and lower income families without hurting the quality of life in communities across Washington State.

George W. Bush spoke of an “ownership society” in his second inaugural speech [read the full text of the address] when he said:

We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance — preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society. By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear, and make our society more prosperous and just and equal.

It’s hard to create an “ownership society” when present economic conditions discourage individuals and families from owning their own homes. The Washington State Legislature should send a signal to the citizens of Washington that it supports affordable home ownership by enacting HB 1744.

Thirty-seven states have some form of a homestead exemption to help middle and lower income families afford their own homes, but Washington State does not.

Last year, in an article in The Olympian, one of my state representatives, who was also a cosponsor of HB 1744 (Toby Nixon), said he hoped to start a discussion about property tax fairness. He said:

I have lived in states like Georgia that have a homestead exemption, and it’s worked well. I think it’s a way to help ensure that senior citizens, in particular, are not taxed out of their homes. I understand fully that it represents a shift of tax obligations to businesses that owners of large rental properties.

Washington needs to move forward and take action on this issue. We cannot afford to do nothing – we must do something. There is going to be criticism for any proposed remedy or solution. But this legislation has, I believe, strong advantages over other alternative proposals that purport to address this problem.

The Washington State Legislature has the opportunity to help the people of Washington by encouraging affordable home ownership.

It is my hope that you will seize this opportunity to improve tax fairness and send HB 1744 to the House floor so we can move forward.

I very much appreciate this opportunity to speak to you about this issue.

Thank you for your time.

Eyman acts to try to prevent initiative process reform

Legislation & Testimony

Initiative profiteer Tim Eyman, desperate for more media attention and hoping to preserve the status quo of an initiative process currently manipulated by special interests, announced he was filing an initiative Wednesday to stop lawmakers from tinkering with the initiative process – even though legislators aren’t currently attempting to make any drastic changes.

“If Tim files too many more initiatives, he’s going to become the laughingstock of the state. What he’s doing now is reacting to something that don’t even exist,” said Permanent Defense Chair Andrew Villeneuve. “Eyman says legislators are making subtle attacks on the initiative process. But legislators know that Tim Eyman isn’t a force in Olympia any longer. They’re not worried about the initiative process because they have more important things to be concerned with. ”

This latest announcement is nothing extraordinary.

Eyman has been incapable so far of getting any initiative on the ballot for the last couple of years without special interest money. Eyman’s initiative is all about preserving the status quo of a manipulated initiative process and stifling reform that could put the power of the initiative back in the hands of ordinary citizens. But with his recent 0 for 4 record, it’s clear this latest Eyman initiative is all hype and no substance.

“Tim Eyman’s recent record on qualifying initiatives for the ballot and passing them speaks for itself. He isn’t going to be able to manage getting this or his performance audits initiative on the ballot this year unless he finds a new source of cash,” Villeneuve concluded.

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