Tim Eyman’s new initiative is extortion

Mandating state lawmakers approve a constitutional amendment or the state loses $1 billion a year in funding is, on principle, wrong.

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Over the past 15 years Tim Eyman has made Democrats (and a few Republicans) in the state Capitol as uncomfortable as a wool sweater on a 100-degree day.

He’s at it again — but this time he’s turned up the heat, and he’s done so in a conniving and troubling way.

Last week Eyman proposed a new initiative that would the states sales tax by a penny, from 6.5 to 5.5 percent, if the Legislature does not take action to adopt a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote in the Senate and House to approve new taxes. That’s about $1 billion a year.

Eyman has convinced voters to approve several initiatives that impose or affirm the two-thirds majority. However, the state Supreme Court ruled last year that requiring a two-thirds vote to raise taxes was unconstitutional and said only a constitutional amendment could impose such a restriction in place.

We were skeptical about the two-thirds majority when it was first floated, but we now favor the concept. State government has not crumbled, as those in the Chicken Little Society had predicted, and it is restraint on spending voters clearly want.

If the Legislature were to muster the two-thirds votes necessary to send such a constitutional amendment to the voters, we expect it to be approved overwhelmingly — even though it only requires a simple majority.

But Eyman’s latest initiative is wrong in principle because of its threatening approach.

Demanding approval of a constitutional amendment under the threat of eliminating funding is extortion. Others call it blackmail. Either way, the ends don’t justify the means.

Eyman, who can be as charming as he can be glib, disagrees.

“We would say we’re giving them a strong financial incentive to let the people vote,” he said.

Eyman has some solid arguments on his side for adding the two-thirds approval for a tax hike in the constitution.

But Eyman didn’t need to sink to this level, nor should he have, to get the constitutional amendment approved.

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