Tag Archives: I-960

Advisory vote costs are not “chump change”

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

Earlier today, The Herald of Everett reported that the Secretary of State has scheduled five meaningless “advisory votes” following the Legislature’s passage of five bills that resulted in revenue being raised or recovered for the state treasury.

The advisory votes are required a provision of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 960, which narrowly passed in 2007 and was partially struck down earlier this year by the Washington State Supreme Court.

The Herald’s Jerry Cornfield sought comment for Eyman about the five advisory votes, and reported that Eyman was unconcerned about the cost of what amounts to very expensive, pointless opinion research paid for with taxpayer dollars.

In fact, Eyman even referred to the cost of incorporating the advisory votes into the voter’s pamphlet (estimated at $240,000) as “chump change”.

“Tim Eyman’s comments today again show that his real objective is weakening and destroying government, not making it function more efficiently,” said NPI founder and executive director Andrew Villeneuve. “Our Constitution provides for three kinds of statewide ballot measures: initiatives, referenda, and constitutional amendments. The Constitution does not authorize advisory votes. Consequently, I-960’s advisory vote scheme is unconstitutional in addition to being wasteful. It was purposely engineered to clutter up our ballots and give Eyman more fodder for emails to reporters.”

“Elections budgets at the state and local level are stretched tight enough as it is – Eyman’s unconstitutional advisory vote scheme just makes a bad situation worse.”

The thicker voter’s pamphlet is actually not the only additional expense related to the advisory votes.

Yesterday, in a separate article, The Herald’s Jerry Cornfield reported that the price tag for the special election to fill Jay Inslee’s House seat ended up being more than three quarters of a million dollars ($791,339.40). Though it was an even-numbered year (when counties are responsible for elections costs) the state agreed to help the counties out with the special election.

King County will be sent the lion’s share of the money, $529,057.02, while Snohomish County gets $106,576.13 and Kitsap County stands to receive $55,706.21.

The data just released by the state for the special election in Washington’s 1st Congressional District makes it clear that the cost of adding races or ballot measures to our ballots is not, in fact, “chump change”.

Because 2013 is an odd-numbered year, the cost of holding the five advisory votes will likely come out of the state treasury. The final bill may not be paid by the state until late 2013 or early 2014, but it won’t be an insignificant amount of money.

“What many people don’t understand is that elections are actually a public service,” Villeneuve said. “It costs serious money to hold elections. Every time there’s a public vote on something, we pay for it. Democracy is a great thing, but it isn’t free.”

“That’s why, when a vote is held, it should mean something. If Tim Eyman wants to do public opinion research, he can pay for that himself with his own PAC’s funds. The rest of us should not be forced to pay for it.”

In the coming weeks, NPI’s Permanent Defense will be releasing a report, Elections are a public service, too: Here’s what they cost which will delve more deeply into the subject of election expenses. Look for this report as election season gets underway later in the summer.

Pot, meet kettle: Tim Eyman attacks Governor Jay Inslee for “employing political spin” on revenue

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

Another Monday has arrived, and so has another mid-morning Eyman missive that sounds like it was put together on an assembly line in Tim’s home office. Today’s target is Governor Jay Inslee, who took office less than two weeks ago and is now trying to put together a budget proposal – presumably a proposal that will square with what he said during last autumn’s campaign.

Inslee and his team are weeks away from presenting their budget, but that hasn’t stopped Tim Eyman from charging that Inslee intends to raise taxes.

In Eyman’s universe, any action that forestalls a decrease in revenue is really a tax increase, just as the repeal of any tax loophole or exemption is a tax increase. It is worth remembering that Eyman’s own unconstitutional, undemocratic initiatives use his definition for what a tax increase is.

And since I-960/I-1053/I-1185 are regrettably on our books, the Office of Financial Management is using Eyman’s definition – because Eyman’s own initiative requires them to! From Section 2 of I-960:

(1) For any bill introduced in either the house of representatives or the senate that raises taxes as defined by RCW 43.135.035 or increases fees, the office of financial management must expeditiously determine its cost to the taxpayers in its first ten years of imposition, must promptly and without delay report the results of its analysis by public press release via email to each member of the house of representatives, each member of the senate, the news media, and the public, and must post and maintain these releases on its web site. Any ten-year cost projection must include a year-by-year breakdown. For any bill containing more than one revenue source, a ten-year cost projection for each revenue source will be included along with the bill’s total ten-year cost projection. The press release shall include the names of the legislators, and their contact information, who are sponsors and co-sponsors of the bill so they can provide information to, and answer questions from, the public.

We can see from this provision of I-960 that the initiative also stupidly requires OFM to do ten-year cost projections. As our friends at the Washington Budget & Policy Center have pointed out on several occasions, these projections are worthless. By Eyman’s logic, a police lieutenant in NPI’s hometown of Redmond will make more than half a million dollars — over the next ten years.

During the 2010 legislative session, the Legislature raised revenue by around $600 million per year. And a substantial chunk of that is actually set to expire this year. So Eyman’s billion-dollar figures are bogus.

Eyman loves to talk about – and distort – the revenue side of the equation when it comes to the state budget. But he almost never talks about the value side. It often seems as though Eyman would like us all to believe the membership dues we pay as citizens of this great state of Washington just disappear into the ether.

In reality, our taxes provide for roads, bridges, ferries, buses, rail transit, libraries, parks, pools, schools, universities, police and fire protection, clean drinking water, and waste treatment, as well as mental health counseling, housing, and other human services for the most vulnerable among us.

And that’s just the abridged version of what is a long list.

We all benefit from these public services, Tim Eyman included. And we all lose when draconian cuts result in services being eviscerated or eliminated. Austerity measures are bad for public health, bad for environmental freedom, bad for safe neighborhoods, and bad for economic security. Austerity measures lead to lost jobs in the public sector and start a chain reaction that causes real GDP to fall by an amount larger than the total amount of money they “save”. (Those reading who have studied macroeconomics know this concept is known as the multiplier effect).

Eyman’s initiatives are purposely written to deprive our common wealth of the revenue that our public services need to stay in strong shape.

In his early days, Eyman hawked schemes that slashed revenue directly; but he has since taken to heart a famous saying of Grover Norquist’s: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” That’s why his more recent initiatives take a death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach to wrecking state and local government.

Eyman tries to make it sound as though state government is some monstrous beast consuming more and more of our money with every passing year. But this is a fiction. State and local taxes per $1,000 of personal income have actually been on the decline since before the the Great Recession hit, as the Office of Financial Management shows on this page, complete with a chart that also shows the fifty state average.

In 1995, state and local taxes per $1,000 of personal income hit a high of $119.93. In 2010, the most recent year for which data was available, the figure stood at $94.48. That’s a decrease, not an increase, and a fairly significant decrease over fifteen years.

What about expenditures? Well, again, contrary to Tim Eyman’s hyperbolic rhetoric, expenditures have not been on a meteoric rise. State and local government expenditures per $1,000 of personal income have risen and declined slightly at times over the past two decades, but expenditures today are lower than they were in the early nineties. Here’s the data from OFM, again with a nifty chart.

Twenty years ago, in 1993, state expenditures stood at $224.37 per $1,000 of personal income. That was the high point during the last two decades. In 2010, the most recent year for which data was available, the figure was $200.42.

Again, that’s a decrease, not an increase.

Furthermore, since 2000, Washington’s average has tracked the fifty-state average.

How revenues and expenditures are measured matters. By presenting information in absolute terms, Tim Eyman can make it seem as though government just keeps taking more and more of our money. But the truth is that we the people are the government, and we have reduced our obligations to each other over the last twenty years.

Washington is not the same state it was in 2003, 1993, or 1983. As our economy has grown, so has the demand for public services. The state may be taking in more revenue than it did not long ago in absolute terms, but in relative terms, it’s not. And data cannot be fairly or meaningfully compared year-to-year in absolute terms; as the oft-used expression goes, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

Ten years ago was a different time; twenty years ago was a different time. Even last year was a different time. We have to compensate for population growth, new development, inflation, and other factors when we consider what it costs to provide services now versus what it cost back then. That’s why it makes sense to look at revenue and expenditures per $1,000 of personal income.

It is beyond ironic that Tim Eyman is accusing newly inaugurated Governor Jay Inslee of “employing political spin”. Nobody is better at generating spin and manipulating the media in Washington than Tim Eyman, who shows no signs of wanting to call it quits after more than a decade of promoting initiatives… and profiting from them.

Two-thirds is *not* a majority: New pictogram explains what I-1185, lawsuit against I-1053 are really about

From the Campaign TrailIn the CourtsRethinking and Reframing

Today, NPI’s Permanent Defense is releasing a new pictogram that explains what Initiative 1185 and the lawsuit against I-1053 are really about.

Inspired by NPI’s late board member Lynn Allen, the artist and storyteller who created a similar visual for NPI’s 2010 video explaining the cost and consequences of I-1053, the pictogram shows how the two-thirds scheme embraced by Tim Eyman and big oil companies like BP and Royal Dutch Shell is preventing our Legislature from functioning as our founders intended it to.

What I-1185 and the lawsuit against I-1053 are really about
Click on thumbnail to see larger image

On the left side of the pictogram is an illustration of what happens when Article II, Section 22 of our state Constitution is in force. Fifty votes (out of ninety-eight total) are sufficient to pass a revenue bill in the House, and twenty-five votes (out of forty-nine total) are sufficient to pass a revenue bill in the Senate.

On the right side of the pictogram is an illustration of what the two-thirds scheme does when it it allowed to illegitimately take precedence over Article II, Section 22. Power is unconstitutionally and undemocratically transferred to a minority – specifically, thirty-three representatives in the House and seventeen senators in the Senate – who gain veto power over the majority.

The words “control outcome” are used in the pictogram to explain who really has power in each situation. When the Legislature operates in accordance with the rules from our Constitution, the majority prevails, because a majority vote is sufficient to pass a bill – even a bill that raises revenue. But when Tim Eyman and Big Oil’s rules are substituted for the Constitution’s rules, control of the outcome passes into the hands of just a few lawmakers, who can override their colleagues.

“This pictogram gives meaning to the adage,  ‘A picture is worth a thousand words'”, said NPI founder Andrew Villeneuve. “It is hard to quickly explain to voters the destructive impact that I-960 and I-1053 have had on our state. But this pictogram tells the story, through simple stick figures and easy-to-read fractions.”

“What the pictogram tells us is that above all, this two-thirds scam has sabotaged our plan of government and prevented our Legislature from operating democratically as it always should. It has changed the decision-making process.”

“That has been the most important consequence. The damage isn’t necessarily visible, but it’s there all of the same… beneath the surface.”

“Tim Eyman has a simple slogan he has been using for years, for I-960, for I-1053, and now I-1185: ‘We can’t trust Olympia, so let’s make it tougher for politicians to raise taxes.’ As far as sound bites go, it’s short, but it’s definitely not sweet. The word sour would be a more fitting descriptor. It’s a manipulative sales pitch that reeks of cynicism and improvidence. It should be obvious by now that Eyman thrives on distrust in government; he has an interest in sowing fear, uncertainty, and doubt in people’s minds. It’s good for business.”

“Eyman wants people to think that state government is the problem, so they’ll overlook the fact that his initiative factory is funded by powerful corporations like BP, ConocoPhillips, and Royal Dutch Shell.”

“These corporations want to trample all over our state Constitution so their lobbyists can wield even more power in our state’s capital than they already do.”

“From looking at the pictogram, we can see that requiring a two-thirds vote to raise revenue is not democratic. The phrase ‘two-thirds majority’ is a misnomer because two-thirds is not a majority. It’s a supermajority. And here’s the thing: A supermajority is actually the inverse of a submajority, which even Rob McKenna’s office agrees is not a majority. Requiring a two-thirds vote to raise revenue, in practice, means that just over one-third of the lawmakers of each house control the outcome. They can say no to everybody else.”

It is worth noting that our Constitution itself cannot be altered by majority vote. But that is because it is our highest law. It is the sacred document that protects minority rights. As recent research by Perkins Coie’s David Perez shows, our founders debated where and when to require supermajorities; they knew that in any instance where a higher threshold was put in place, the minority would control the outcome.

The rules they gave us say a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote, but bills require just a majority vote. That way, we have majority rule with minority rights. And by majority vote, our founders meant greater than fifty percent.

No more, no less.

What I-1185 and the lawsuit against I-1053 are really about is this: Will we uphold Washington’s Constitution or not? If we care about the rule of law and the plan of government our founders gave us, we ought to reject I-1185 at the ballot, and our Supreme Court ought to uphold Judge Bruce Heller’s ruling striking down I-1053.

Tim Eyman claims he’s “optimistic” that Supreme Court will side with him in lawsuit against I-1053

In the CourtsRethinking and Reframing

Tomorrow, the highest court of law in the State of Washington – the Supreme Court – will hear oral argument in League of Education Voters et. al. v. State of Washington, the legal challenge against Tim Eyman’s I-1053 originally filed over a year ago in King County Superior Court by a coalition of parents, teachers, and lawmakers.

As was predicted when the case was filed, it has now reached the state Supreme Court on appeal. Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office is asking the Court to throw out the decision reached by widely respected Judge Bruce E. Heller, who found that I-1053 was unconstitutional and void in its entirety.

The plaintiffs in the case, represented by Paul Lawrence, are asking the Court to sustain Heller’s ruling and strike I-1053 from the Revised Code of Washington.

I-1053 sponsor Tim Eyman is not directly involved in the litigation (the attorney general’s office is required by law to defend initiatives) but, as usual, he is cheering on Rob McKenna, whose legal team is asking the Supreme Court to dismiss the case on a technicality, and failing that, find I-1053 constitutional.

Eyman sent out an email earlier today listing several reasons why he’s “optimistic” the Court will side with him and overturn Heller’s decision… either based on a technicality, or on the merits. He all but declares victory prematurely, equating the case against I-1053 to Brown v. Owen, the last lawsuit to challenge the two-thirds scheme to raise revenue that Eyman has turned into his own pet cause.

Let’s go through Eyman’s reasons and add some context and commentary, shall we?

Reason number one:

EYMAN:  Just two years ago, a unanimous state supreme court rejected a very similar lawsuit under very similar circumstances (one chamber passed a tax increase and a lawsuit was filed challenging the two-thirds).  That 9-0 opinion, authored by Justice Mary Fairhurst, the most liberal justice on the state supreme court, resulted in a “finding this a political question” that should be resolved through the legislative process.

Here Eyman is referring to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Owen. The Court held in that case that it could not grant Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown (the plaintiff) a writ of mandamus ordering Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen (the defendant) to forward a revenue-raising bill that had achieved a majority vote  to the House of Representative (even though the bill had achieved the constitutionally required majority).

Owen, interpreting Initiative 960, had ruled that the bill in question needed a two-thirds vote to pass, in accordance with the initiative, even though Article II, Section 22 says that the standard for passage of bills is a majority vote. Brown then took Owen to court, hoping to get the Supreme Court to decide the constitutionality of I-960. The Court declined to do so. But in dismissing the action, it did not find I-960 to be constitutional.

Nor did the Court say, as Eyman seems to be suggesting by quoting one phrase from the decision, that the issue of whether I-960 was constitutional was not appropriate for the court to decide. In fact, the Court reminded all parties in the case that judicial review is the job of the judiciary:

While serving as the presiding officer of the senate, the lieutenant governor is an officer of the legislative branch. State ex rel. Lemon v. Langlie, 45 Wn.2d 82, 98, 273 P.2d 464 (1954). It is beyond the power of the legislature to rule that a law it has enacted is unconstitutional. Wash. State Farm Bureau, 162 Wn.2d at 303-04 (“‘[T]he legislature is precluded by the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers from making judicial determinations.’” (alteration in original) (quoting O’Brien, 85 Wn.2d at 271)).

This case is like Brown v. Owen in that it challenges the constitutionality of an initiative requiring two-thirds votes for bills that raise revenue, but in other respects, it is quite different. For instance, the relief requested is not a writ of mandamus. As Judge Bruce Heller explained in his opinion striking down I-1053:

This case represents the first constitutional challenge to the supermajority and mandatory referendum requirements brought before a trial court. Unlike Walker and Brown, the plaintiffs are asking for declaratory relief instead of a writ of mandamus. In other words, they are requesting a ruling regarding the constitutionality of a statute, as opposed to an order requiring another branch of government to perform or refrain from performing an act.

Judge Heller concluded that the request for declaratory relief was properly brought, and proceeded to consider whether I-1053 was constitutional. He determined that it was not.

The takeaway is that this case – the LEV case –  is dissimilar in important ways from Brown v. Owen, contrary to what Tim Eyman has said. In Brown, the Senate Majority Leader asked the Supreme Court itself to reach the issue of I-960’s constitutionality by granting her application for a writ of mandamus. The Court deemed the request improper, so it did not consider whether I-96o was constitutional (I-1053, its successor, was not in effect at the time). In LEV, a diverse coalition of plaintiffs went to a trial court first for declaratory relief, which was granted. No writ of mandamus was asked for.

On to Eyman’s second reason:

EYMAN: In 1994, the Court found that individual legislators and special interest groups lack standing to bring lawsuits like this (“When a statute may be amended by the very persons the Petitioners claim are being harmed, state legislators, we cannot do otherwise than find that this is only a speculative dispute.”).

Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office made this same argument to Judge Heller in urging that the case be dismissed, but Judge Heller found that the plaintiffs did, in fact, have standing. Here is his reasoning:

Plaintiffs have established standing to bring this action. A plaintiff has standing to challenge a statute’s constitutionality if he or she can show that (1) the “interest sought to be protected . . is arguably within the zone of interests to be protected or regulated by the statute or constitutional guarantee in question” and (2) a “sufficient factual injury.” Seattle School Dist., 90 Wn.2d at 493-94. The legislator plaintiffs have an interest in advancing bills through the legislative process with the constitutionally required number of votes. The non-legislator plaintiffs have an interest in the adequate funding of education. The legislator plaintiffs allege that they have suffered injury because they have been unable to address funding gaps in education. The plaintiffs from the educational community allege that cuts in educational funding and services have resulted in substantial harm to educators, teachers, students and education groups, such as the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs Kim Bielski and Ryan Painter, for example, are teachers who lost their jobs as a result of budget cuts.

On to Eyman’s third reason:

EYMAN: The tax increase they tried to pass last year was approved this year, arguably making their current lawsuit moot.

It’s telling that Eyman threw in the word “arguably”. This lawsuit is far from being moot. As Eyman well knows, the purpose of the two-thirds scheme is to allow a minority of legislators to undemocratically wield veto power over bills that raise revenue. The two-thirds scheme has been used – and will continue to be used – to block legislation that would fund vital state services if it is not struck down. As Judge Heller notes:

Since Walker, 18 years have passed. During this time, except for brief periods when the legislature suspended it, the supermajority requirement has been in effect. In McCleary, the Supreme Court described the legislature’s inability to fund constitutionally required basic K-12 education. 173 Wn.2d at 532-37. SBH 2078, which would have provided funds to reduce K-3 class size, failed to pass in the House because of the supermajority requirement. The inability of the House to pass this legislation with a simple majority demonstrates that the dispute over the constitutionality of the supermajority requirement is an actual one with known consequences.

On to Eyman’s fourth reason:

EYMAN: Lawsuits like this aren’t valid if the Legislature doesn’t exhaust all their remedies before going to court. They could have appealed the ruling of the Chair and passed the tax increase; they didn’t.

Again, contrary to what Eyman implies, the Legislature is not the plaintiff in this case. The plaintiffs are a coalition of groups and individuals, of which the League of Education Voters (LEV) is named first. The League and its members are not legislators; they did not have the ability to appeal the ruling of the presiding officer of the House of Representatives (who, incidentally, holds the title of Speaker, not Chair).

Rob McKenna’s legal team made this same argument in Superior Court as well (noticing a pattern here?), and Judge Heller shot it down:

According to the State [represented by Rob McKenna’s office], under House rules a majority of the legislators could have overruled the Speaker’s ruling that RCW 43.135.034(1) required the vote of two-thirds of the members and passed SHB 2078 by a majority.

This argument reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the respective roles of the judiciary and the legislature. It is for the courts, not the legislature, to determine the constitutionality of a statute. Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137, 177 (1803)(“It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is”). Our Supreme Court affirmed this principle in Brown, emphasizing that under the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers, the legislature may not rule a law it has enacted to be unconstitutional. 165 Wn.2d at 726-27. Accordingly, this court will not require the legislature to pass a tax bill in contravention of the statute’s supermajority requirement as a precondition for the court’s exercising jurisdiction over this dispute.

Phew. Okay, we’re almost done. Here’s the fifth reason on Eyman’s list:

EYMAN: A law is constitutional unless the Constitution expressly prohibits it. Our Constitution does not.

This is not how constitutional law works. A statute that conflicts with any part of the Constitution is unconstitutional, period. Article I, Section 29 declares:

The provisions of this Constitution are mandatory, unless by express words they are declared to be otherwise.

For instance:

SECTION 22. PASSAGE OF BILLS. No bill shall become a law unless on its final passage the vote be taken by yeas and nays, the names of the members voting for and against the same be entered on the journal of each house, and a majority of the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor.

The crux of the dispute in this case is whether I-1053 violates the above provision (Article II, Section 22), as well as Article II, Section 1.

Judge Heller found that I-1053 violates both provisions.

One more to go! Number six:

EYMAN: For a lawsuit to be valid, the dispute must be “between parties having genuine and opposing interests” that are “direct and substantial.”  The Attorney General has a job to do, defend initiatives, but in my view, their office lacks the direct and substantial interest needed to surpass this threshold.

We’re not sure what point Eyman is attempting to make here. Whose “office” is he referring to when he says “their office”? There is more than one plaintiff, and many of the plaintiffs are not elected officials. As we’ve already observed, this dispute is over a matter that is in fact real and justiciable. That is precisely why Judge Heller granted the plaintiffs the declaratory relief they asked for back in May.

To quote Judge Heller one final time:

A justiciable controversy is one that is (1) an actual, present, and existing dispute, (2) between parties having genuine and opposing interests, (3) which interests are direct and substantial, and (4) a judicial determination of which will be final and conclusive. To-Ro Trade Shows, 144 Wn.2d at 411. The parties in this matter plainly have genuinely and opposing interests, and a judicial ruling on the constitutionality of the supermajority and mandatory referendum requirements will constitute a final and conclusive resolution of this dispute.

We agree with Judge Heller. This argument has been festering for years; it is time for the matter to be resolved. As established in Marbury v. Madison long ago, only the courts have the ability to decide whether a law is constitutional or not. The plaintiffs in this lawsuit are asking the Supreme Court to consider whether I-1053 violates longstanding provisions of our state’s highest law, including Article II, Section 22. They are not asking the Court to settle a parliamentary dispute in the Legislature.

Several months ago, the Court had an opportunity to stay Judge Heller’s decision when it took up the case. It did not, even though it was asked to by Rob McKenna. That means that I-1053 is currently not in effect. Here’s a question worth pondering: If the justices felt that Heller’s decision was way off base, wouldn’t they have granted McKenna’s request for a stay? It is not unusual for such requests to be granted.

And yet, in this instance, the Court said no. They have let Heller’s decision stand even as they take up the matter. That gives us reason to hope that they will ultimately uphold his decision, striking down this two-thirds nonsense once and for all.

POSTSCRIPT: It is worth mentioning that last month, Eyman himself asked a court of law for a writ of mandamus… he wanted to force the Office of Financial Management to retract its fiscal impact statement for Initiative 1185 and replace it with a statement saying there was no fiscal impact at all. The judge who heard the case turned Eyman down and threw out his suit. The irony of Eyman’s prayer for relief in that case was immediately apparent to us when we read the brief Eyman’s friends at Groen & Stephens helped him write… though it may not have been obvious to Eyman, who has a penchant for sponsoring unconstitutional initiatives.

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.

What editorial boards are saying about I-960

Endorsements

Permanent Defense, the AARP, the League of Women Voters, Washington fire fighters, teachers, nurses, business and environmental groups – over 120 organizations statewide — all oppose Initiative 960 because it would paralyze our government.

Newspapers across Washington are urging their readers to vote NO on I-960:

The Yakima Herald Republic calls Tim Eyman’s I-960 a “cynical ploy” for limiting voter information.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer calls it “a straitjacket.”

The Columbian “strongly recommends a ‘No’ vote on I-960, joining a large chorus of organizations, public officials and other newspapers.”

The Tacoma News Tribune criticizes I-960’s “overly prescriptive mandates that could bog down the Legislature and the ballot.”

The Tri-City Herald says it would have “costly and overzealous outcomes” and concludes “I-960 just doesn’t make sense for Washington voters.”

The Walla Walla Union Bulletin says “I-960 should be rejected.”

The Olympian says I-960 will cost “taxpayers millions…” and call the requirement that legislators vote on nickel increases in fees “beyond reason.”

Washington Research Council publishes report on I-960

Off TopicThreat Analysis

The Washington Research Council, a business-supported think tank, has a new report (PDF) that echoes our criticisms of Tim Eyman’s latest plan to handicap government:

Initiative 960 is intended to make it more difficult for our elected representatives to raise taxes without referring the matter to a direct vote of the people. As such, it would take the state a step further away from representative democracy.

The value of delegating public decision making to a small number of representatives was well expressed by James Madison:

The effect of [the delegation of the government to a small number of citizens elected by the rest is] to refine and enlarge the public views by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country and whose patriotism and love for justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose. (Federalist 10)

The Research Council likes representative democracy. While both the initiative and the referendum provide useful checks on the legislature, public votes should be the exception not the rule.

We find the advisory ballots to be particularly problematic, as they are designed more to intimidate legislators rather than to engage the public. If the initiative passes, the two-thirds majority requirement will almost certainly be challenged for violating the state Constitution.

Learn more about I-960’s harmful ramifications for our state at Reasons to Oppose.

Initiative 960 would cost taxpayers millions

Threat Analysis

The state Office of Financial Management has released a statement analyzing the potential financial impacts of I-960. It’s not pretty:

Initiative 960 would result in added costs to prepare ten-year cost projections for proposed state tax and fee increases, to notify legislators and the public about proposed revenue legislation, and to conduct advisory votes on tax increases approved by the Legislature. Costs are estimated to be up to $1.8 million a year, including $1.2 million for local election expenses. Local government pays election costs in even-numbered years. The state pays a pro-rated share in odd-numbered years. Actual election costs for any particular year will depend on the number of tax measures referred to an advisory vote.

Most of the money is for election related expenses (remember, elections cost money) to handle the nonbinding, useless advisory votes that I-960 would implement, if it takes effect.

An advisory vote, a new form of referendum, would be automatically triggered when a tax increase is passed into law by a two thirds supermajority (the high bar stipulated by I-960). Both the advisory vote gimmick, which is meant to give voters the false impression that their taxes are skyrocketing, and the two thirds limits run afoul of the state Constitution.

The state Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the legal challenge to strike I-960 from the statewide ballot next week.

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