Eyman seeks to renew taxing restrictions for Washington Legislature

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SEATTLE (AP) — Anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman’s initiative to renew the two-thirds legislative majority requirement to create new taxes is on the ballot again this November.

This time, however, Initiative 1185 is seeing little resistance.

Opponents say they don’t have as much money to combat it as they did in the past, partly because there is a stiff competition for donor dollars at a time when there are numerous other initiatives on the ballot — such as legalizing pot and gay marriage.

“There aren’t new donors. There are more issues to cover,” said No On 1185 campaign manager Brianna Thomas.

The two-thirds restriction has become the bane of Democrats and their allies, but so far opponents have only raised about $80,000. They raised $1.6 million in 2010, but their effort didn’t persuade voters to vote down the measure.

This year, Eyman and his partners in the beer, oil and restaurant industries raised nearly $1.3 million and gathered the signatures to put it on the ballot.

Even as the ballot measure is facing little resistance, the main fight over the two-thirds restriction is happening in the state Supreme Court.

Justices are mulling a decision against the rule based on the state’s constitutional duty to fund education. Arguments from both sides were presented in September. A ruling is not expected for months.

In the last two tries, voters have sided with Eyman, approving his initiative in 2010 with 64 percent of the vote. So far, Initiative 1185 has been polling well.

Since the 1990s, the two-thirds restriction has been approved four times.

Since Eyman took over sponsoring it in 2007, he has taken to filing the initiative every other year to deter lawmakers from suspending the two-thirds restriction, which they can do with a simple majority vote after two years.

This year’s initiative is a repeat of the others.

The measure reinstates that a two-thirds legislative majority for new taxes or a simple majority approval from voters. It also states that new or increased fees must have a simple legislative majority for approval.

In Washington, state lawmakers can suspend an initiative two years after it is passed by a simple majority vote in Olympia.

“We’re probably the most boring ballot measure on the ballot,” Eyman said jokingly. “We’re not the sexy marijuana, gay marriage, even charter schools. We’re just trying to keep the law the way it is today.”

It cost about $1.3 million to put the initiative back on the ballot, according to filings. That money was provided by business interests that often lobby against tax breaks from being closed.

Eyman said he’ll continue to put the two-thirds restriction up for a vote because he sees Democrats in Olympia as too eager to raise taxes, if there are no restrictions. The restriction was lifted in 2010 when lawmakers were able to do it.

“The more recent the vote, the harder it is for Olympia to ignore it, that’s why we advocate for voting on it over and over again,” Eyman said. “Taxes should be the last resort. When the two-thirds is in effect, it is the last resort.”

Backing the campaign against 1185 are a cohort of unions and liberal advocacy groups, as well as a slew of Democratic lawmakers and candidates, including gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee.

Thomas acknowledged it’s hard to argue against the simple pitch of not raising taxes. She’s been using the education funding angle this year.

“My arguments are constitutionality,” Thomas said. “It’s definitely a harder pitch, especially in the middle of this recession. To get people willing to pay more, it’s a hard sell. But it’s necessary.”

Does Eyman see a year when he doesn’t file an initiative on this? He said he’d like to see lawmakers allow for a public vote on a constitutional amendment implementing the two-thirds rule.

For that to happen, two-thirds of both legislative chambers have to OK the amendment.

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