Tim Eyman has a filed a new initiative, and while some of the media is calling it “dastardly” and “devastating,” KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson thinks he might have a different view.
“Everybody in the media seems to hate Tim Eyman’s new initiative, which means I’m probably going to like this one,” says Monson.
Monson welcomed Eyman on the show Tuesday to talk about his new measure I-1325 (2/3 Constitutional Amendment).
“The two-thirds requirement is more popular than any initiative we’ve ever done,” says Eyman. “This initiative, and this policy, the two-thirds requirement for the Legislature to raise taxes, has had the greatest level of support of any initiative we’ve ever done, and all we’re trying to do is say let’s let the voters have the opportunity to decide whether they want this permanently in our state constitution.”
The measure is in response to a state Supreme Court ruling last year that found requiring a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to raise taxes is unconstitutional. The court said a constitutional amendment would be needed to put in place such a restriction.
Eyman successfully sponsored measures to keep the two-thirds requirement on the books, until the Supreme Court ruling.
“So the new thing here is you want to make this a constitutional amendment, but to do that you’ve got to get the Legislature to agree to make the constitutional change,” says Monson. “How are you going to do that?”
“Well, what the initiative does is it gives the Legislature a strong financial incentive to let the people vote. Our initiative says we’re going to reduce the state sales tax. Give everyone the biggest tax cut in Washington state history, unless they let the people vote on a constitutional amendment.”
The description of the initiative says: “This measure would decrease the state retail sales tax rate…unless, by April 2015, the Legislature refers to the voters a constitutional amendment requiring two-thirds Legislative approval or voter approval to raise taxes.”
Eyman explains in a press release that the initiative would reduce the state sales tax from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent on April 15, 2015, which he says would translate to a 6 percent “hit” on the state’s general fund.
“Olympia’s politicians will not be thrilled with this policy,” the release says, “So the initiative provides them with an escape clause. The initiative gives the Legislature until April 15, 2015 to put the 2/3 constitutional amendment on the ballot. If they do that, then the sales tax reduction expires on April 14 and never takes effect.”
“It’s giving them a financial incentive to let the people vote,” Eyman tells Monson. “If you let us vote, it costs you nothing. If you don’t let us vote, we’re going to get the largest tax cut in Washington state history. It’s win-win for the taxpayers.”
Eyman says seventeen other states have constitutional amendments requiring two-thirds Legislative approval for tax increases.
“It protects taxpayers, and all we’re trying to do is make it a permanent fixture in our state constitution. A chance for us to make tax increases a last resort in our state,” says Eyman.
Monson notes the two-thirds policy doesn’t mean the Legislature can never raise taxes.
“As you’ve said many times, and as I’ve said many times, this doesn’t prevent them from raising taxes,” says Monson. “It just requires that they make a compelling case that two-thirds of them can agree on to sell to their constituents and if there is such a compelling need to raise taxes, I think a lot of us are willing to say yeah we’ll pay more, but they have to make that case first.”
“And if they can’t get broad Legislature consensus in favor of a higher tax,” says Eyman, “they always have the option to go to the voters with a simple majority vote of the Legislature and a simple majority vote of the people to raise taxes.”
While he hasn’t supported all Eyman’s initiatives in the past, Monson is into this one.
“I love this one,” says Monson. “I don’t just blindly support anything you put out there, but this one, this is so necessary. Like you said, it’s something the people have said five times we want. It’s something that is a protection that other states provide their citizens. Absolutely we need this one.”
Changing the state constitution requires a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate, and simple-majority approval by voters.
Eyman needs to collect at least 246,372 valid voter signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.