Tag Archives: I-695

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.

Voters in King County never demanded “$30 car tabs”

Election PostmortemRethinking and Reframing

Still mad over King County Executive Dow Constantine’s successful efforts to patch Metro’s funding shortfall, Tim Eyman is now asking his supporters to print out and hang up an eight and one half by eleven inch poster which accosts King County Councilmembers Jane Hague and Kathy Lambert as liars, Councilmember Julia Patterson as a sell-out, and Councilmember Bob Ferguson as… wait for it… Switzerland (because he didn’t say at the outset of the debate how he would vote).

In his email announcing the poster, Eyman complains:

“Whatever happened to our $30 car tabs?”  We hear it all the time from citizens. Voters have twice approved $30 car tabs and required that anything higher than $30 requires voter approval. It’s what the voters demanded and what the politicians promised (after I-695 was rejected by the courts — Governor Gary Locke said “Regardless of the court’s ruling today, $30 tabs are here to stay.”).

While Initiatives 695 and 776 (which Eyman is referring to) did pass statewide, they both failed in King County. In other words, King County actually voted against $30 car tabs… twice. So, in choosing to raise vehicle fees to save Metro, King County’s leaders were actually not only taking a just and moral action to protect a vital public service, they were respecting the will of the people they represent.

(Initiative 695, on the ballot in 1999, failed in King County by a vote of 53.34% to 46.66%. Initiative 776, on the ballot in 2002, failed in King County by a vote of 59.57% to 40.43%. Neither outcome was close).

Tim Eyman blows a gasket after learning of bipartisan deal to save King County Metro

Statements & Advisories

On a day when people across King County are happy – happy that representative democracy at the regional level is working and overcoming obstacles, happy that our elected leaders have come up with a solution to protect Metro, a vital public service – Tim Eyman is angry, even though he doesn’t even live in King County.

See, Tim delights in creating chaos. Making messes. Wrecking government so it can’t work like it’s supposed to. So, when he sees public officials teaming together to navigate around land mines planted by him or his sympathizers, it makes him upset. Very upset. He tends to lose his cool and lash out.

Today was no exception.

Eyman’s fury was directed in particular towards the two Republican councilmembers who signed on to the agreement announced today by Executive Dow Constantine to save Metro: Jane Hague and Kathy Lambert. Both represent broad swaths of the Eastside, and both had been fiercely lobbied by Metro riders to support raising vehicle fees to offset painful cuts to service.

Eyman, who first gained notoriety for trying to slash vehicle fees statewide, had previously praised both for indicating they would not join Democrats in voting to save Metro. But today, he was harshly vilifying them with a special scorn he usually reserves for progressive Democrats.

The subject line of Eyman’s email alone was a doozy. It read:

RE: Hague & Lambert flip-flop for lollipops — 2 King County Republicans cut a deal with Dow, screwing us out of our $30 car tabs in exchange for earmarked pork — worse, they’ve lied about it for months.

The first-person plural reference is pretty cute. Eyman acts as if he lives in King County. But he doesn’t. He likes in Mukilteo, which is part of Snohomish County. That means he won’t have to pay the higher vehicle fees. So why should he care? Well, here’s one reason: Both of his top two all-time wealthy benefactors (Michael Dunmire and Kemper Freeman Jr.) live in King County.

Perhaps he feels that he must be publicly enraged on their behalf.

The body of the Mukilteo profiteer’s message basically accused Hague and Lambert of behaving like, well… Tim Eyman.

[T]hey’ve been lying for months.  They lied to the media, lied to constituents, lied to all of you.  It’s totally sleazy under any circumstances — ignoring the voters’ ballot box mandate — but it’s beyond the pale to sell their council votes in exchange for pork barrel earmarks.

The agreement to save Metro doesn’t actually include any earmarks… in fact, it dispenses with the 40/40/20 formula that used to benefit the Eastside at Seattle’s expense. But of course, Tim Eyman doesn’t care about the details. What he cares about is that two Republicans are cooperating with some Democrats to save a vital public service. Instead of showing fealty to him and his uncompromising ideology of destruction, they’re listening to their constituents. And that’s a no-no.

Eyman revises history again: I-776 wasn’t “overwhelmingly” approved by voters

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

The 2009 election may be over, but that hasn’t stopped initiative pitchman Tim Eyman from distorting the truth as he appeals to his followers to compensate him for failure.

In his latest missive, copied to the media, Eyman writes:

Over the past 11 years, we’ve sponsored 4 initiatives to reduce car tab taxes and voters got to vote on two of them:  both were overwhelmingly approved by the voters.

Eyman doesn’t name those two, but he’s talking about Inititative 695 in 1999 and Initiative 776 in 2002.

I-695 passed with 56% of the vote. If that’s overwhelming, than each defeat that Eyman has suffered at the ballot box is beyond overwhelming: I-745 was rejected in 2000 with 59.34% of the vote, I-894 was rejected in 2004 with 61.54% of the vote, I-985 was rejected in 2008 by 59.99% of the vote, and I-1033 is being rejected by 57%. And there’s a noteworthy factoid right there: No Eyman initiative has ever passed by a greater margin than any of his four defeats at the ballot.

There’s no question that I-695 passed handily. People felt the motor vehicle excise tax had gotten too high and was being collected unfairly. Presented with Tim Eyman’s all-or-nothing choice, a majority opted for nothing, not recognizing the consequences of this course of action.

But let’s look at 2002’s Initiative 776, which was on the ballot three years after I-695. I-776 passed with only 51.47% of the vote, which is hardly “overwhelming”. It is worth remembering that Initiative 776 sought to repeal vehicle fees that were only levied in four counties: King, Snohomish, Pierce, and Douglas. I-776 actually failed within King County and the Sound Transit taxing district as a whole, which spans the most urban part of King, Snohomish, and Pierce.

Even voters in Kitsap County, who were voting on vehicle fees that didn’t affect them, turned I-776 down, perhaps because they had witnessed better than anyone the consequences of I-695.

Considering his many losses and failures, Eyman should know better than anyone that voters are nuanced. If the case for preserving existing revenue or raising revenue is effectively made, people tend to vote prudently with an eye towards the future. If people can’t see the connection between their tax dollars and the services provided, they tend to be skeptical. That explains the failure of two propositions in Burien and Bremerton to raise vehicle fees.

Eyman cites this as evidence that people hate vehicle fees, but he’s being misleading… again. Surveys, such as the one Sound Transit conducted in 2007 after the failure of “Roads and Transit”, suggest people are willing to pay vehicle fees if the fees go towards services and projects that they support.

In some jurisdictions, like Seattle, levies get readily approved because people there are very concious about wanting to live in a place with a great quality of life. Elsewhere, however, people expect the case to be made to them in a campaign, and if it isn’t, they tend to be opposed in lopsided numbers. Just ask the people who run rural library districts or school districts.

This is one of the drawbacks of “budgeting by referendum”: it requires elected officials and concerned citizens to always be in campaign mode, defending the common wealth from erosion and destruction.

Eyman initiatives have real consequences

Election PostmortemRethinking and Reframing

Years after their passage, the aftershocks of Tim Eyman’s dangerous initiatives are still being felt.

In an article published in the Everett Herald yesterday, the story of the struggling town of Gold Bar is told. Ever since the passage of Initiative 695 in 1999, Gold Bar has been in trouble. And now, the city is in danger of having to disincorporate.

The city’s troubles are indeed the result of Eyman initiatives, as the article notes:

The reason Gold Bar and numerous other cities around the state are struggling financially can be traced to the passage of the car tab initiative in 1999, which lowered licensing fees to a flat $30 rate.

Since then, Gold Bar has lost about $707,000 in revenue, according to the Association of Washington Cities. That loss is bigger than the city’s 2005 general fund of about $508,000. The city already has tightened its belt, cutting expenses on staff training, laying off staff and restructuring the police service contract with the county, which has saved the city about $194,000, said Hester Gilleland, the city’s clerk and treasurer.

The sad reality is that cities need money to operate. It costs us money to live in a society – something that Tim Eyman has never been intelligent enough to recognize. There comes a point when there is simply nothing left to cut and no belt-tightening left to do: the government simply stops functioning.

Public services, such as police and fire protection, swimming pools and libraries, roads, parks and public schools – aren’t free. Without money to operate those services, the government has no choice but to stop providing them. This seriously endangers the health of Washington state’s communities.

Gold Bar is unfortunately at the end of its string. But the city’s residents haven’t got anybody to blame except themselves.

Hawkins [mayor of Gold Bar] said she finds it ironic that even she voted for Initiative 695 – the major cause of the city’s financial headaches.

The town’s registered voters supported the initiative by a vote of 354-138. Courts eventually struck down the measure, but state lawmakers heeded the will of the people and adopted $30 license tab fees anyway.

In 2002, voters approved a second car-tab initiative, which eliminated a $15 license registration fee that Snohomish County and several other counties had been charging.

That money was earmarked for street repairs. As a result, the street fund in Gold Bar dropped from $17,200 in 2002 to nothing in 2004, Gilleland said.

“Even though these initiatives are appealing, they are giving a death warrant for local government,” Hawkins said.

Voters have been tricked into voting with their pocketbooks thanks to Tim Eyman and his sadistic rhetoric. Even mayors have been sold on the premise that they can have it all and not pay for it. By refusing to look at both sides of the equation, and refusing to acknowledge that tax cuts are equivalent to cuts in public services, Eyman and his cronies have distorted the truth and caused a lot of damage.

The Republican position that we must “live within our means” may sound appealing, but it is insane. Too many years of tax cuts are wreaking havoc on Washington State and its many local governments. If something isn’t done in the next few years, city halls across the state will be forced to close and some counties may even collapse into insolvency.

At a time when many rural citizens are angry about the lack of local control in their quest for “property rights”, they risk losing out and ceding more power to officials that are further away. Many of these people are the same folks that eagerly embraced Tim Eyman’s initiatives.

You get what you vote for, and they will pay dearly for their lack of vision and their self-centered thinking. If they’re upset about losing local control, then they should join the bandwagon in clamoring for the state Legislature to pass a budget that will plug the deficit with new revenues.

Cities and counties need money to operate. They’re out of funding. Without the state’s help or increased local revenue, there is no hope for them. And the state cannot possibly provide them funding when it faces its own budget shortfall.

It’s time for people who have been avoiding reality to acknowledge it. We cannot afford any more tax cuts. We need new revenues and real tax reform. We must fund public services or be forced to stop providing them.

The impact of Initiative 695: One commuter’s story

Election PostmortemRethinking and Reframing

Christine Dorsey of Kitsap County writes:

I live in Kitsap County and Eyman’s antics have thoroughly disrupted my life. I commuted by ferry to Seattle, so I was very dependent on transit to get me from my home to the Kingston ferry.

When the car tabs initiative passed [I-695] ,I lost my bus route, so I had to drive 16 miles to the ferry terminal and pay an additional 50.00 a month for parking, then the ferry fares jumped dramatically.

I then lost my job in Seattle because I couldn’t get a bus to my office on time and the transit times were cut. All around Tim Eyman’s initiatives wrecked my job and my lifestyle. There still is no bus route in my area and I wonder what the elderly and school age kids do if they don’t have a car.

This is one of many examples of damage resulting from Tim Eyman’s initiatives. I-695 has hurt many people. Yet most conservatives are oblivious to this. They, of all people, should know, yet they continue to support Eyman’s ridiculous anti-tax rhetoric. Have they failed to notice that ferry fares have skyrocketed since the 1990s?

In part, that’s due to the recession, but the implementation of Tim Eyman’s I-695 is primarily to blame.

We have a simple message for our fellow Washingtonians: Don’t let Eyman get away with wrecking your life. Don’t let a fraternity watchmaker from Mukilteo dictate our government’s money flow.

Decline to sign Initiative 807.

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