Category Archives: Rethinking and Reframing

I-695’s devastating impact is no laughing matter

Election PostmortemRethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

Irked by a letter to the editor published by The Herald of Everett, initiative profiteer Tim Eyman this morning sent out an email to his followers ridiculing elected representatives and civic leaders over their opposition to I-695 (on the ballot in November of 1999), which wiped out billions of dollars in funding for public services following its implementation by the Legislature in 2000.

“[F]or nearly a decade, our initiative was blamed for most everything. ‘Heavy rainfall in Seattle caused by I-695’ — ‘I-695 spurs riots in LA’ — ‘Earthquake in East Timor exacerbated by I-695’. Our opponents couldn’t get enough of it. But eventually, their silliness eventually dissipated,” Eyman wrote in his email.

To NPI’s knowledge, no one opposed to I-695 has blamed it for out-of-state civil unrest, bad weather, or earthquakes abroad. However, Eyman’s I-695 has been blamed — and deservedly so — for having made our tax code more regressive and weakened the vital public services which our tax system funds.

The devastating impacts of I-695 are no laughing matter, nor were they overstated by Lynnwood’s Jerry Fraser in his letter to the editor.

Before I-695 was reinstated by Governor Gary Locke and lawmakers, the state-level MVET was projected to bring in more than one and half billion dollars during the 2001-2003 biennium, as noted by the Office of Financial Management (OFM) in its 1999 fiscal impact statement:

In the aggregate, I-695 would reduce motor vehicle taxes and fees by up to $1.1 billion in the 1999-01 Biennium and by up to $1.7 billion in the 2001-03 Biennium… As detailed on Table 1, the initiative would eliminate up to $1.1 billion in state revenues in the 1999-01 Biennium and up to $1.7 billion in the 2001-03 Biennium, which currently support transportation, criminal justice, public health, and other programs.  It also repeals the statutory method for the valuation of vehicles, as well as the distribution formulas for MVET revenue.

OFM’s analysis went on to offer a list of major public services funded by the state MVET:

  • Local transit districts
  • County public health account
  • Distressed county assistance account
  • Ferry capital construction account
  • Ferry operations account
  • Motor vehicle fund
  • Transportation fund
  • City & county sales tax equalization
  • Municipal & county criminal justice

Prior to its repeal, about 47% of the statewide MVET went to state transportation, while 29% went to local transit agencies and 24% went to local governments.

Below is a compendium of four fact sheets documenting the impact that I-695 was projected to have on a selection of county and city governments throughout the state:

Passage of Tim Eyman’s I-695, and the Legislature’s subsequent decision to reinstate it after it was struck down by the State Supreme Court in the ATU case had huge ramifications (like delayed/lost bond sales), and ushered in an era of backfilling at all levels of government that went on for years.

“We’re not even close to filling the holes,” State Representative Hans Dunshee told The Seattle Times a few months after the 1999 general election. “The largest impacts of I-695 will be unaddressed. That’s going to take more working and more thinking.”

Times editors felt the fallout from I-695 was so significant and newsworthy that they established a special section on seattletimes.com to chronicle developments.

To replace the sudden, giant funding loss resulting from I-695, state agencies and local governments across Washington were forced to resort to drastic emergency measures.

Washington State Ferries was forced to hike fares dramatically (because funding for operations decreased by 58% and capital funding decreased by 70%).

The City of Mountlake Terrace stopped providing animal control.

Washington State University instructed its extension offices to begin preparing for massive budget cuts.

And the laudable goal of reducing class size and putting more money into schools fell by the wayside as the Legislature struggled to backfill the loss of MVET money.

In some cases, voters were asked to approve tax increases to replace lost funding.

In Longview, voters were asked to approve a flood control levy (and they said yes). The success of the levy mitigated one problem, but basic and essential public services still took a big hit in a Longview. The Daily News reported on November 16th, 2000:

The loss of motor vehicle excise taxes with last year’s passage of Initiative 695 hit Longview hard, and will reduce city revenue by about $1.4 million in 2001-2002, [Longview finance director Kurt] Sacha said. All city departments took cuts, and Longview police lost five officer positions in 2000.

King County Metro also went to the voters to gain back lost funding (and again, the voters said yes). Unfortunately, in Metro’s case, the mechanism the Legislature came up with to allow the agency to backfill from I-695 was an increase in its sales tax authority.

So even though the voters said yes to Metro’s request, the dot-com bust wiped out the projected revenue, as this 2010 King County Metro “System Overview” presentation explained on Slide 19 (“Funding Issues”):

  • 1999: I-695 approved. Metro’s funding reduced by $110 million per year (29% of budget)
  • 2000: Transit sales tax authority raised by Legislature to 0.9 percent
  • 2000: 0.2 percent Metro sales tax approved
  • 2000: Dot com bust: The projected sales tax growth to fund most of the service adds in the plan is lost
  • Plan became largely unfunded, but included the revised allocation policy of “40-40-20

In Snohomish County, Community Transit initially responded to I-695 by laying off dozens off bus drivers. Here’s how the Seattle Times reported it:

You’re a mean one, Mr. Eyman. All the bus drivers in Whoville say so.

Whoville, of course, is where the Grinch stole Christmas. And Community Transit (CT) drivers in Snohomish County who received layoff notices on the eve of the holidays want everyone to know that Initiative 695 sponsor Tim Eyman is their Grinch.

They gathered yesterday at the Labor Temple here to tell how Eyman – and the state’s voters – took their holiday cheer.

Pink slips were handed to 90 CT drivers and other employees earlier this month, announcing layoffs effective Feb. 6. Thirty other employees will be cut from full- to part-time status. The move was made in response to a projected loss of $18.7 million, 30 percent of CT’s budget next year.

Community Transit subsequently reversed some cuts to bus service using temporary funding. County leaders warned residents at the time that the service restorations might not be permanent. And sure enough, they weren’t. Sunday service went away that same year. It was brought back in 2002, then indefinitely suspended again in 2010 along with paratransit for disabled Snohomish County residents.

Five long years went by before Community Transit brought back Sunday service.

The motor vehicle excise tax used to be a stable revenue source that transit agencies could count on. After the statewide MVET was eviscerated, transit agencies became heavily dependent on sales taxes. As anyone with a basic understanding of public finance knows, the sales tax yields less revenue during economic downturns. Downturns, however, are precisely when many people rely on public services the most.

Community Transit, Metro, Sound Transit, and other transit providers will be facing the same predicaments they’ve grappled with in the past as soon as another recession occurs. Sales tax funding will go down, and that will jeopardize essential service that people rely on.

This is one of the many long-term consequences of I-695 that Tim Eyman never wants to talk about. He may not ride the bus, but hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians do. To them, the prospect of not being able to get to their job on Sunday, or utilize paratransit service to participate in community functions, is very scary.

Tim Eyman can pretend the real and serious consequences of I-695 don’t exist, but neither we nor our elected representatives can afford to live in his fantasyland.

Washington is home to more than seven million people. By working together and pooling our resources, there is much we can accomplish. To move forward and raise our quality of life, it’s imperative that we reject Tim Eyman’s destructive agenda and reaffirm that we believe in the values that Washington was founded on. We call upon our elected representatives at all levels to work with us to undo the harm caused by Eyman’s past initiatives as well as defeat any new schemes that Eyman comes up with.

NPI/Permanent Defense founder Andrew Villeneuve files Majority Vote Protection Initiative

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

This morning, at the Secretary of State’s office in Olympia, Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve filed a new statewide initiative, titled the Majority Vote Protection Act. The intent of the initiative is to ensure that going forward, statewide initiatives and referenda only pass if an absolute majority of the state’s registered voters weigh in on them.

Additionally, the Majority Vote Protection Act stipulates that any initiative that attempts to impose any supermajority vote requirement on the Legislature (whether three-fifths, two-thirds, three-fourths, or some other threshold) must pass by the exact same supermajority of the voters, or else it will be declared failed.

“The team at the Northwest Progressive Institute is very excited about defending our Constitution’s balance of majority rule and minority rights with the Majority Vote Protection Act,” said NPI’s Villeneuve.

“This is the very first draft of this initiative, and we look forward to refining and improving it in response to the feedback we receive from our supporters, the public, and the press. We feel strongly that the time has come to change state law to ensure that our cherished tradition of majority rule is protected.”

“Our Constitution requires that bills in the Legislature pass by an absolute majority, but our minimum threshold for passage of initiatives and referenda is merely a majority of whoever turns out to vote. That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Under the lax rules of our current system, a small fraction of the state’s electorate can impose laws on everybody else in an election with poor turnout. That is precisely what’s happening right now with Tim Eyman’s hostage-taking I-1366.”

“As of this morning, turnout in Washington’s 2015 general election stands at a measly 38.28%, with almost no ballots left to count. This is the worst general election turnout since the state began permanent voter registration in the 1930s. A little more than half of the voters who participated in this year’s election voted for I-1366, while slightly less than half voted against I-1366. As Seattle Times columnist Ron Judd astutely pointed out in his column The Wrap earlier this month, this means that I-1366 has the support of less than twenty percent of the electorate.”

“A system of government that permits a few to make decisions for the many is not a true democracy,” Villeneuve said. “The first draft of our Majority Vote Protection Act would amend the statute governing the canvass of statewide ballot measures to require that all initiatives and referenda be voted on by at least an absolute majority of registered voters in order to be declared passed. It would also amend the same statute to stop the initiative process from being used to subvert majority rule by requiring that any initiative which contains some incarnation of a supermajority vote requirement to pass by its own supermajority vote requirement — or else be declared failed.”

NPI welcomes feedback on the Majority Vote Protection Act. Questions and comments pertaining to the new initiative draft may be submitted to NPI through Permanent Defense’s contact form.

Statement on the early 2015 general election returns

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

Early returns tonight indicate that Washington voters are passing Tim Eyman’s hostage-taking I-1366, albeit not by a large margin. Northwest Progressive Institute founder and executive director Andrew Villeneuve released the following statement after analyzing the initial results.

“Though these early results are disappointing, our resolve to protect our Constitution and our common wealth from the destructive harm of initiatives like I-1366 has never been stronger. In partnership with many other organizations committed to the defense of Washington’s values, we waged the best campaign against I-1366 that we could with modest resources.”

“We are clearly doing much, much better than we did against I-1185 in 2012 or I-1053 in 2010, and that is very gratifying. We will continue to keep an eye on the results. If late voters break against the initiative, we should see the margin tighten.”

“If I-1366 does ultimately pass, we will continue to work to defeat it in the courts. I-1366 is blatantly unconstitutional and completely beyond the scope of the initiative power, as Judge Dean Lum ruled back in August. It deserves to be buried in the graveyard of Washington state politics.”

“We are heartened to see that voters in Seattle and Snohomish County are voting to invest in road maintenance, better sidewalks, and improved transit tonight. Contrary to what Tim Eyman claims, Washingtonians are willing to tax themselves to pay for vital public services. They want a government that is effective and works for them.”

“Our research shows that voters want better choices. A recent survey conducted by Public Policy Polling for NPI shows 54% of likely 2015 voters support a capital gains tax on high earners in Washington, with 43% of respondents saying they ‘strongly support’ the idea. Voters are hungry for progressive tax reform, but I-1366 would take us in the wrong direction.”

“We’re not happy with tonight’s early results, but we’re not discouraged. At NPI, we’re in this fight for the long haul. We always have been. We will continue the fight to defend Washington’s common wealth and Constitution in the weeks, months, and years ahead. The last thing our state needs is to be paralyzed by D.C.-style gridlock, imported from our nation’s capital by Tim Eyman and his wealthy benefactors.”

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

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

Yesterday, longtime pollster Stuart Elway revealed that his latest survey of Washington voters finds that Tim Eyman’s hostage-taking I-1366 is on the rocks, with support dropping to 42% and opposition rising to 42%, a significant shift from last July, when Elway found support for I-1366 to be at 49% and opposition at 36%.

Apparently unnerved by this news and the bad press it generated, Tim Eyman has gotten busy trying to change the subject. To his followers, he sent off a morning missive touting an endorsement from a militant, gun enthusiast outfit called The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

To the state’s press corps, he sent out a copy of a spreadsheet prepared by the Department of Revenue, which lists how much money the state has collected from property taxes every year since 1980, but is not accompanied by any analysis other than his own — which is not credible and cannot be trusted or relied upon.

Eyman’s reason for circulating the data is to prop up his narrative about Washington being a high-tax state with “skyrocketing” property taxes.

But this narrative is false.

Comparative data from the Department of Revenue shows that, as a percentage of personal income, we Washingtonians are paying less in state and local taxes than we have historically, and less than residents of most other states in the Union.

In 1980, the year Eyman is misleadingly trying to draw a comparison with, DOR data shows Washingtonians were paying a little less than $120 in state and local taxes per $1,000 of personal income. As of 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, Washingtonians were paying $96.82 in state and local taxes per $1,000 of personal income. That’s also less than what residents of most other states were paying at that same time. Comparatively speaking, Washington ranks thirty-fifth among the states with respect to state and local taxes.

The United States average, as of 2012, is $105.24 in state and local taxes per $1,000 of personal income. And again, we in Washington pay less than that. We have been on a largely downward trend for decades, as this historical chart shows:

State and Local Taxes Per $1,000 of Personal Income: Washington and All States Average 1976 - 2012

Tim Eyman doesn’t want people to know this information. That is why he never talks about it. He deals in absolutes, because absolutes produce visuals that suit his false narrative, such as the chart from DOR he sent around. But when you deal in absolutes, you cannot make useful or truthful comparisons. It is important to utilize data that allows for relative comparisons, such as the metric of state and local taxes per $1,000 of personal income. And going by that incredibly important metric, we can see that state and local taxes have been going down… not up.

1980 was a very different time: our state had a smaller population and a smaller economy than it does today. Property values and income levels were different. Washington has seen tremendous economic growth as well as an increase in population over the last thirty years. Demand for essential state and local public services has increased significantly as a consequence of population growth and new development, but funding levels have not kept up.

That’s why legislators are presently under a Supreme Court order to comply with Article IX, Section 1 of our Constitution, which stipulates that it is the paramount duty of the state to amply provide for the education of Washington’s youth.

It is true that Washington’s tax code is regressive; the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy has ranked it the worst in the nation. The sad reality is, we have an upside-down system that requires middle and lower income families to pay a much larger percentage of their income in taxes than the wealthy do.

We at NPI think this is wrong, and we want to reform our tax code to make it more progressive. Tim Eyman doesn’t. Progressive tax reform is his worst nightmare, because it could seriously limit the appeal of future anti-tax initiatives, which he profits from qualifying to the ballot on an almost yearly basis.

It is very important that taxes be fair and equitable, because taxes are our membership dues in the State of Washington, and in the cities and counties we call home. Taxes support K-12 schools, colleges, universities, police, fire, and emergency medical response, parks, pools, hospitals, roads, transit, ferries, courts, elections, foster care, jails, prisons, courts, elections, geologic hazards mapping, and a lengthy list of health and human services. By pooling our resources together, we are able to afford these things.

But unfortunately, we haven’t been investing in our essential public services to the degree we should be. Our communities have suffered as a result, and we’ve missed economic opportunities, too. We ought to be investing more than we are. Given that our tax code is so regressive, the sensible way forward is for our state is to require the wealthy (including Tim Eyman’s wealthy benefactors) to step up and pay their fair share. Sadly, Eyman’s benefactors have no interest in being patriotic taxpayers, which is why they’re underwriting Eyman’s hostage-taking I-1366.

Eyman’s I-1366 certified for ballot; jeopardizes $8 billion in revenue through 2021

From the Campaign TrailRethinking and ReframingStatements & AdvisoriesThreat Analysis

As required by law, the Washington State Office of Financial Management (OFM) has completed a fiscal impact statement for Tim Eyman’s I-1366, which was today certified for the November 2015 statewide ballot by Secretary of State Kim Wyman.

According to OFM’s analysis, I-1366 is an even greater threat to Washington’s future than previously believed. The 13% sales tax cut that I-1366 would impose if legislators don’t submit to Eyman’s demand for a constitutional amendment to sabotage Article II, Section 22 translates to a loss of $1.4 billion a year in 2017, the first year it would fully be in effect. It only gets worse after that.

Through 2021, Washington’s treasury would be deprived of approximately $8 billion in funding for vital public services like schools and universities.

“OFM’s fiscal impact statement for I-1366 confirms what we’ve been saying for months about I-1366: This is the most destructive, mean-spirited initiative that Tim Eyman has ever qualified for the ballot,” said Northwest Progressive Institute founder Andrew Villeneuve. “Eyman doesn’t have the votes in the Legislature to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2013 League of Education Voters decision, so he’s resorted to blackmail. And he’s taking Washington’s young people as his hostages.”

“We can see what’s at risk by looking at the state budget. The sales tax is easily our state’s largest single source of tax revenue, supplying nearly half of the money that goes into the general fund. And more than half of the general fund goes to K-12 schools, colleges, and universities.”

“Education is our single largest responsibility as a people. And, in the words of our Constitution, it is also our paramount duty. We are obligated, as a society, to make ample provision for the education of Washington’s youth.”

“”The Supreme Court has determined we have not been meeting this obligation and ordered our legislators to act. The slight progress the House and Senate have made to date towards complying with the Court’s McCleary orders is jeopardized by I-1366. Legislators just agreed on a bipartisan basis to put more money into schools and lower tuition. That carefully crafted agreement will be undone in the span of a few months if I-1366’s first scenario comes to pass,” Villeneuve said.

“And under other I-1366’s second scenario, our regressive tax code would be locked into place permanently. As few as seventeen senators – twelve percent of our entire Legislature – could kill any attempt to raise or recover revenue for our state treasury. Our founders strongly believed that decisions like these should be made by the many, not a few. We should honor and uphold the Constitution they gave us by rejecting I-1366.”

OFM’s analysis also determined that funding for implementation of I-900, Tim Eyman’s performance audits initiative from ten years ago, would be cut by Scenario 1 of I-1366. I-900 stipulated that a percentage of state sales tax revenue be dedicated to funding performance audits. Ironically, money for conducting those audits is now at risk along with the other public services that the sales tax funds.

“Tim Eyman has never been concerned with the harmful, messy consequences of his initiatives,” Villeneuve noted. “In his rush to imitate the militant tactics of Ted Cruz and U.S. House Republicans, he thoughtlessly put funding for his own initiative from ten years ago in jeopardy along with funding for education, public safety assistance to local governments, and countless other vital public services.”

“As the old adage goes, Any fool can burn down a barn, but it takes a real carpenter to build one. Tim Eyman has demonstrated he knows how to start fires, but in the span of fifteen years, he has not helped put any out, nor has he contributed to the building of a better Washington. I-1366 represents a new low for his initiative factory.”

Washingtonians have decisively rejected some pretty bad Tim Eyman initiatives in the past, but only when the case to vote no has been effectively made by people and organizations that do care about building a better Washington.

That’s why, since February, the team at NPI has been working to organize and empower Washingtonians from across the political spectrum to fight I-1366.

“We encourage everyone who wants to uphold our Constitution, protect our common wealth, and defend Washington’s values to step up and help us kick the effort to beat I-1366 into high gear,” said Villeneuve. “There’s a lot of work that needs doing between now and when ballots drop. We urge people to get involved in this campaign.”

The growing coalition against I-1366 includes the Washington Association of School Principals, League of Women Voters of Washington, the League of Education Voters, Statewide Poverty Action Network, Washington Environmental Council, Washington State Democratic Party, and many more. An evolving list of organizations opposed to I-1366 is available on the NO on I-1366 website.

Police report, eyewitness testimony documents harassment of citizens by Eyman petitioners

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

With Tim Eyman and his associates said to be winding down the signature drive for I-1366, Eyman’s most destructive initiative yet, NPI’s Permanent Defense has been reviewing anecdotes submitted by citizens and activists regarding their experiences with petitioners during the I-1366 signature drive.

One incident in particular drew our attention, because it illustrates that there have been and continue to be occasions where petitioners have needlessly instigated conflict with citizens by behaving inappropriately.

During the week of April 19th-25th, two petitioners most likely on the payroll of Tim Eyman and his associates selected a Trader Joe’s in Kirkland, Washington, to solicit in front of. Their objective was to intercept shoppers entering and exiting the store and get them to sign Tim Eyman’s I-1366.

Eyewitness Bob Osrowske, a resident of Kirkland who contacted NPI to report his experiences, first saw the petitioners on the afternoon of April 20th, as he was going into Trader Joe’s, around 3:20 PM. He described the older of the pair, later identified by the Kirkland Police as Robert A. Blaska, as “quite aggressive”.

During this initial encounter, Osrowske asked if I-1366 was sponsored by Tim Eyman; he recollected the younger petitioner, later identified by police as Devin M. Fox, responding by asking, “Who’s Tim Eyman?” and claiming it was merely “a conservative initiative”.

Osrowske, who correctly suspected that I-1366 is in fact a Tim Eyman initiative, declined to sign the petition and continued into the store.

Two days later, on Wednesday, April 22nd, Osrowske was again on his way into Trader Joe’s to get groceries, and witnessed Blaska and Fox intercepting shoppers in front of the store for a second time.

“They were the worst-behaved signature gatherers I’ve encountered so far,” Osrowske told NPI. “They’d get in a person’s face to get a signature, or challenge you if you had a different opinion. Courtesy was not a part of their vocabulary.”

When Osrowske came out of the store, at about 1:20 PM, Officers Karp and Miller of the Kirkland Police Department had arrived to confront Blaska and Fox after receiving a 911 call at 12:38 PM from another individual.

The police report obtained by NPI from the City of Kirkland states that the call was precipitated by the presence of “harassing solicitors outside Trader Joe’s” who were “trying to get signatures for lowering taxes”. The subjects were described by the complainant as “rude and forceful”, with one being more aggressive than the other.

Officer Karp’s narrative describes what happened next:

Robert A. Blaska (born 82) refused to move his petition table from obscuring the exit and wheelchair ramp at Trader Joe’s. We also had several complaints of him cursing at patrons. He was trespassed for one year and his partner Devin M. Fox (born 92) remained.

The incident was subsequently logged by the Kirkland Police Department as #2015-00016270.

Unfortunately, the kind of harassment that Bob Osrowske and other Trader Joe’s shoppers had to put up with that week last April is not uncommon.

Grocers and other retailers have documented many instances where petitioners have blocked store entrances and gotten in the faces of patrons. In some of these instances, the police have been summoned, as they were in Kirkland on April 22nd, because the petitioners refused to behave respectfully.

A panel organized by the Washington Food Industry Association and the Northwest Grocery Association spoke to the Senate Government Operations & Security Committee about problem petitioners at a now-infamous hearing on SB 5375 on February 5th, which was abruptly ended by committee chair Pam Roach following an exchange between vice chair Don Benton and ranking member Marko Liias.

Prior to the committee’s sudden adjournment, Republican and Democratic members of the committee spoke to some of their own experiences with aggressive petitioners during a Q&A with the panel. (The hearing can be watched on demand via TVW).

“Tim Eyman has repeatedly portrayed petitioners as the victims of harassment, but as this incident and others show, there have been many times when petitioners were the perpetrators and citizens the victims,” said NPI founder and executive director Andrew Villeneuve.

“Unfortunately, in Washington, as in many other states, it is legal to pay petitioners by the signature, which means petitioners have an incentive to be aggressive. If they can corner people and get them to sign, they make more money. Plenty of people will sign a petition just to get a confrontational signature gatherer to quit bothering them.”

“It’s definitely time for our state’s executive and legislative branches to act to clean up Washington’s underground petitioning industry. People who are being paid to gather signatures aren’t merely exercising their First Amendment rights — they’re doing a job. Their employers should be following all of our state’s worker protection laws, and ensuring they get training so that they understand how to behave appropriately when they are out collecting.”

Larry Haler’s House Bill 2255 lives on as an initiative to the people

Legislation & TestimonyRethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

In response to Republican State Representative Larry Haler’s disappointing decision to withdraw House Bill 2255, legislation that sought to replace Tim Eyman’s I-747 with a more sensible property tax policy, NPI founder and executive director Andrew Villeneuve today introduced the bill as an initiative to the people to ensure that the proposal will live on and be easily accessible for public discussion and comment.

“We wish Larry Haler had stood behind his bill,” said Villeneuve. “Since he’s chosen to pull it and neither of his Democratic cosponsors wanted to take it over, it’s been erased from the Legislature’s website – as if it never existed. To ensure that it remains accessible, NPI has transformed it into an initiative to the people. The only change we’ve made is to add an intent section. Otherwise, we’ve left the bill as it was.”

Anyone doing a bill-specific search for HB 2255 now sees an error when putting in that number, due to the bill having been withdrawn. A broader search of the Legislature’s website will turn up information pertaining to bills with the same number from other years. The bill’s text stayed up leg.wa.gov for a while longer, but now it’s gone, too.

This morning, Tim Eyman sent out an email to his followers and the media crowing about the bill’s demise and taking credit for having intimidated Haler into withdrawing the bill. Eyman, of course, stands to benefit if Washington State’s tax code remains broken and regressive: it ensures that there will be grist for future initiatives from his mill.

But what’s good for Tim Eyman isn’t good for Washington State.

“We are long overdue for meaningful action to fix our broken tax code,” Villeneuve said. “If Republicans who are in a position of responsibility wish to be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem, then they need to declare their independence from Tim Eyman and demonstrate a willingness to work with Democrats on reform.”

“We were encouraged when Larry Haler introduced HB 2255, and just as equally disappointed when he folded under pressure and pulled it. He could have set a good example for his party and done the people of Washington an important service by standing up to Tim Eyman. Eyman may not want to admit it, but Washington’s essential public services – from schools to mental health services to parks to ferries – are woefully underfunded and reliant on the nation’s most regressive tax system for the little money they are getting.”

“How many more times is the Legislature going to take the lowest road and pass a budget that relies on accounting gimmicks, fund transfers, and other trickery to paper over the worsening structural problems we’ve got?” Villeneuve asked.

“And for how much longer are county and city leaders supposed to scrape by under I-747, the Death-By-A-Thousand-Cuts Initiative? Washington’s public services are one of its greatest assets, and we should be protecting and strengthening them… not allowing them to waste away under an ill-conceived Tim Eyman initiative.”

The transformed text of House Bill 2255 is available from the Secretary of State’s website. The just-filed initiative will eventually receive a ballot number, title, and summary, once the text is finalized.

Eyman’s I-1366 aims to lock in Washington’s broken tax code… permanently

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & AdvisoriesThreat Analysis

With Washington State’s regular legislative session now disappearing into the rearview mirror, initiative promoter Tim Eyman has once again turned his attention to aggressively hawking his latest and most destructive scheme yet: Initiative 1366, which he is attempting to qualify to the November ballot with the help of Vancouver developer Clyde Holland’s deep pockets.

I-1366 would wipe out around $1 billion a year in funding for our schools, universities, and other vital public services unless, by next April, the Washington State Legislature overturns the Supreme Court’s League of Education Voters decision by passing a constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds vote to raise revenue. It’s Ted Cruz-style blackmail.

Either outcome of I-1366 would be disastrous for Washington State.

“I-1366 is a mean-spirited, incredibly destructive initiative that represents an all-out attack on the values that Washington was founded on,” said Northwest Progressive Institute founder Andrew Villeneuve.

“Eyman’s aim is to force lawmakers to permanently sabotage Article II, Section 22 of our state Constitution, to transfer power over key budgeting decisions from the many to the few. Were that to happen, our state’s broken tax code – which is ranked as the nation’s most regressive – would be permanently locked into place. The fate of any tax reform proposal could be perpetually dictated by just one faction of one political party on one side of the Dome, resulting in gridlock and paralysis.”

“And if lawmakers refuse to do as Eyman demands, then his initiative would blow a huge hole in the state’s operating budget, wiping out around $1 billion a year in funding for vital public services like our schools,” Villeneuve added.

“School funding in Washington State is already so low that lawmakers are under a court order to raise it. Eyman’s I-1366 would destroy all the progress that’s been made to date towards complying with McCleary, and then do much more damage on top of that. I-1366 is unconscionable as well as unconstitutional.”

Counting $250,000 in loans he has taken out against his home, Eyman has raised nearly $900,000 for I-1366 to date, according to reports filed with the PDC.

A third of that sum has been provided by Clyde Holland ($300,000). Another $100,000 was donated by longtime Eyman patron Kemper Freeman Jr. of Bellevue, who owns the Bellevue Collection (Bellevue Square, Bellevue Place, Lincoln Square) and ranks behind only Michael Dunmire as Eyman’s top benefactor.

Petitioners are out collecting signatures for I-1366 now. Reports submitted by activists to NPI’s Permanent Defense following their encounters with petitioners document that petitioners – like Eyman – are falsely advertising I-1366 as a revote on the two-thirds vote requirement struck down by the Supreme Court in League of Education Voters (2013).

I-1366 is really a hostage-taking scheme conceived by Eyman to force Democratic lawmakers to vote to overturn the LEV decision.

Eyman needs their cooperation because, contrary to what he says in his emails and on his petitions, he doesn’t have the power to put a constitutional amendment before the voters. Only the Legislature has that power.

Unlike in other states, Washington’s Constitution cannot be amended by ballot initiative, only by a properly-submitted constitutional amendment. The Constitution explicitly states that all amendments must originate in the Legislature. And ironically, before they can be placed on the ballot for consideration by the people, they must receive a two-thirds vote of each house to pass.

Eyman doesn’t have the votes, which is why he’s resorting to blackmail. Getting two-thirds of the Legislature to agree on anything, even small matters, is often difficult to do, particularly in the polarized times we live in.

Eyman knows that I-1366 would fail if he was truthful about his intentions, which is why he is falsely advertising it, as he did with I-1366’s predecessor I-1325 last year.

Eyman’s emails, whether about I-1366 or another subject, are frequently chock full of misinformation and fudged numbers, while lacking in context.

Reporters, editors, producers, and editorial writers are advised to avoid using any Eyman email to source information for a story, column, or editorial.

A debunked version of the email that Eyman sent Monday is available from Permanent Defense’s website.

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:

Democracy requires that decisions be reached by majority vote
Democracy requires that decisions be reached by majority vote

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.

Fudged numbers

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.

Missing context

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.

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