This Washington

Eyman Files Five New Initiatives

By Erica C. Barnett January 9, 2012

Initiative hawker Tim Eyman has filed five new initiatives for 2012 aimed at reducing taxes, making it harder for legislators to raise taxes, fighting red-light cameras, extending the time for initiative backers to collect signatures, and granting new powers to the state auditor's office.

The first proposal, the so-called "Son of 1053" initiative, would extend 1053's mandate that any tax increase must be approved by a two-thirds majority of both the state house and senate for two more years. (Currently, the legislature has the authority to overturn 1053 starting in 2013). "The people insist that tax increases receive either two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval and fee increases receive a simple majority vote. These important policies ensure that taxpayers will be protected and that taking more of the people’s money will always be an absolute last resort," the initiative says.

The second proposal would roll back any non-voter-approved vehicle license fees, including two separate $20 fees approved by the King County Council and Seattle City Council last year, so that no state resident would pay more than $30 for car tabs. Eyman says the proposal isn't aimed specifically at Seattle, though he acknowledges that Seattle and King County have the highest fees in the state.

King County's $20 fee, which raises about $25 million a year, has enabled Metro to preserve bus service at more-or-less existing levels. Seattle's license fee, which brings in about $6.8 million a year, pays for things like street and bridge maintenance, sidewalks, pothole repair, trees, and street cleaning.

The third initiative would require cities to remove automatic red-light cameras, which photograph drivers who run red lights, unless voters have explicitly said they want the cameras.

Last year, a court overturned an Eyman initiative aimed at red-light cameras in Redmond, ruling that the city council, not the voters, had jurisdiction over traffic enforcement. However, the city council shut the program down anyway, noting overwhelming public opposition to the cameras. Other cities that have shut their red-light cameras off include Mukilteo, Bellingham, Longview, and Monroe.

"On the local level you've got these issues" with city control, Eyman says. "The trump card is always being able to just change the statewide statute and say, 'these cameras can't be there unless they're voter-approved.'"

Seattle has installed about 30 red-light cameras around the city; since 2006, they've caught more than 150,000 violators, bringing in about $4 million a year, reducing the severity of crashes, and cutting the number of people who run red lights substantially.

Eyman's fourth proposal would make it illegal to interfere with anyone gathering signatures for an initiative or anyone signing an initiative petition. More significantly, it would increase the time campaigns have to collect enough valid signatures---currently, 241,153---to give signature gatherers six extra months to collect signatures.

"Opponents of ballot measures sometimes try to interfere with the signature gathering process in the final months of the campaign, taking advantage of the limited time for the collection of signatures," the proposed initiative says. "The people find that allowing more time for citizens to participate in the signature gathering process will deter such despicable tactics."

Eyman says the initiative would also make it easier for volunteer-run signature campaigns---as opposed to campaigns that use paid signature-gatherers, who are paid based on how many signatures they collect---to qualify for the ballot. "The marijuana guys (supporters of 2010's I-1068) got, like, 150,000 or 160,000 signatures, and they were all volunteer," Eyman says. "If they had had a month or two more, they could have done it on an all-volunteer basis. There's just not enough time to be able to get that many signatures" without using signature-gathering firms. Eyman's last campaign, for the anti-tolling, anti-light-rail Initiative 1125, spent $1 million to gather signatures. This time, he estimates his campaign will need to collect about 320,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Finally, Eyman's fifth proposal would expand the state auditor's authority by creating the state inspector general's office, which would "investigate instances of fraud and malfeasance by state and local governments to ensure accountability and guarantee that tax dollars are being spent properly." The initiative, which Eyman is calling the "Prevent Government Fraud Act," is reminiscent of Eyman's I-900, which quadrupled funding for investigations by the state auditor's office.

"It turns out that there are fraud units in many different agencies, but because they work in that department, it's hard to call out the agency in which you work," Eyman says. "This would consolidate all those fraud agencies into one deputy in state auditor's office

Eyman says he has a "couple of other ideas" for initiatives in the works, and says he'll decide which of the proposals to pursue after the end of the legislative session that just got underway.
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