Two Questions for Tim Eyman
Longtime initiative hawker Tim Eyman has filed a new measure that would require all statewide tax increases to be re-approved every year—in contrast to all other local laws, which stay passed once they're signed into law. The one-year limit would disappear if (clever) the state legislature passes a constitutional amendment to require a 2/3 legislative supermajority to raise taxes. (A previous Eyman initiative that imposed the 2/3 rule, I-1053, was declared unconstitutional by the state supreme court earlier this year).
Eyman, who has arguably wreaked more havoc on Washington state's ability to fund basic services than any other activist or politician, has taken out (for the second time) a second, $250,000 mortgage on his home, asking supporters to give him money to keep his campaign going. Not that he is, by most people's standards, suffering; so far this year, he's gotten more than $112,000 in compensation from campiang contributions.
So why is Eyman still hittting up his most reliable donors for money? And if, as he claims, Eyman's latest campaign truly is backed by the people of Washington state, why does he need so much money for paid signature gatherers (who typically make a dollar for each of the several hundred thousand signatures Eyman's campaign will need to make it on to the November ballot)?
Here's Eyman's response:
Initiative campaigns, even for wildly popular policies like a 2/3-for-taxes constitutional amendment, are expensive because the amount of time to collect signatures is severely limited. All initiatives—liberal or conservative—require seed money to get the ball rolling and that's what my loan does for our new initiative.
When it comes to this particular policy—2/3-for-taxes—we already know that 1.9 million voters approve it, because that's how many voters voted for last year's I-1185 during that huge turnout presidential year. Almost 2/3 of voters support the 2/3. There's no initiative we've ever done that's received more support at the ballot box than the 2/3; it passed in every county; it passed in 44 of 49 legislative districts, only the five districts in Seattle didn't pass it.
And by way of comparison: Bill Gates and the labor unions spent $1.6 million to get their state income tax initiative on the ballot; I-502 marijuana sponsors spent $1.1 million; Booth Gardner spent $1.4 million for his Death With Dignity initiative; the SEIU spent $1.4 million to qualify their initiatives.
Initiative campaigns are expensive even when the voters overwhelmingly support the policy, like they do with our new initiative.