The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

History of Eyman Initiatives

Summary of Tim Eyman Initiatives (wiki)

Eyman launched his first initiative, Initiative 200, in 1997, which attempted to prohibit affirmative action in state higher education and government hiring and contracting. At first, Eyman had difficulty collecting enough signatures to place the initiative on the ballot (8% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election), so he sought help from local talk show host John Carlson. After Carlson took over, the initiative received enough signatures to earn placement on the ballot. In November of 1998, voters approved the initiative.

In 1998, Eyman failed to gather enough signatures for a new initiative which would have eliminated Washington's relatively high (though steeply progressive) motor vehicle excise tax, or MVET. Eyman sought to reduce public taxation by eliminating the MVET.

In 1999 Eyman tried again, with Initiative 695, which proposed replacing the old MVET with a flat $30 fee for yearly car registration fees, called "car tabs", while simultaneously requiring voter approval for any tax or fee increases at the state or local level. It was supported by the public but opposed by state officials.

Enlisting a number of volunteers from different regions of the state, and working with fellow activists Monte Benham and Jack Fagan, Eyman succeeded in getting I-695 on the ballot. It passed, despite opposition from a broad coalition—including some businesses, some labor groups, environmentalists, civic groups, and other organizations—who argued that the loss of revenue would wreak havoc on state government. Some major newspapers in Washington called for its rejection, and some cities, including officials in Seattle, passed resolutions opposing the initiative.

After I-695 was passed, opponents contested the initiative in court. The initiative was declared unconstitutional by the Washington State Supreme Court because it had two subjects. Fearing voter backlash, the Legislature, with the cooperation of Governor Gary Locke, quickly acted to maintain the lower car tabs.

After I-695, Eyman formed a political committee known as Permanent Offense. He began working on Initiative 722, which was designed to cap property taxes at 2%. With the support of groups such as the state asphalt pavers' union, he also sponsored Initiative 745, which would have mandated that 90% of all transportation funding go to roads (interpreted by some as an attack on mass transit spending).

Unlike I-695, I-722 and I-745 were placed on the ballot largely through the use of paid signature gatherers. While there was some initial concern by his opponents, the courts have ruled that paid signature gathering is protected by the First Amendment.

I-722 and I-745 both appeared on the November 2000 ballot. I-722 passed, but I-745 was rejected by voters. Political opponents contested I-722 in court, and it was overturned on the same grounds as I-695: that it was unconstitutional because it contained two subjects. The initiative had tried to reduce existing property taxes and enact a 2% cap on future property tax growth.

Eyman came back in 2001 with Initiative 747, which imposed a 1% cap on property tax growth in Washington. Like earlier initiatives, I-747 got on the ballot thanks to the use of paid signature gatherers. The public voted for and I-747 passed despite well-funded and visible opposition from many of the same political interests which had opposed Eyman's previous initiatives. Opponents argued that it passed because voters didn't realize or comprehend that public services would actually be cut. Supporters contended that those same services and costs were unnecessary and could not be justified. In Nov. 2007 I-747 was ruled unconstitutional. On November 29th, the state legislature entered a special session to consider reinstating the 1% cap.

Opponents then attacked Eyman claiming he had received help from the Code Revisor's Office in drafting the initiative and sued to force disclosure of the work the code revisor did. They won that battle in May 2002. The initiative went into effect, as the public had voted, shortly after passing. On June 13, 2006, King County Judge Mary Roberts threw out the measure, arguing that "The voters were incorrectly led to believe they were voting to amend I-722. The voters were misled as to the nature and content of the law to be amended, and the effect of the amendment upon it. The (state) constitution forbids this." (see [1]).

After the November 2001 election, Eyman began work on his next initiative, Initiative 776, which he called the "son of 695". Its aim was to cut local car tabs fees which I-695 and the Legislature had failed to remove earlier. The local car tab fees funded regional transportation in four Washington counties, including Sound Transit, a multi-county transportation agency in the Puget Sound area.

Opponents complained that the initiative asked voters statewide to vote on an issue which only affected four counties. Opponents questioned the constitutionality of allowing voters across Washington to vote on fees they were not paying nor seeing the benefit of. But supporters feared that similar fees would eventually be charged statewide.

In 2007, Eyman spearheaded Initiative 960, intending to make it harder for the Legislature to raise taxes and fees. This initiative is currently passing but election results have not been finalized yet.

[edit] List of initiatives and outcomes

* I-200 (1998) - Prohibit affirmative action in public employment, education and contracting.
o Passed by voters.
* I-695 (1999) - Cut the state motor vehicle excise tax and required voter approval for all tax increases.
o Passed by voters but declared unconstitutional.
* I-722 (2000) - Cut state and local property taxes, which fund public services.
o Passed by voters but declared unconstitutional.
* I-745 (2000) - Required 90% of transportation funding to be spent on road building.
o Defeated by voters.
* I-747 (2001) - Cut state and local property taxes
o Passed by voters but declared unconstitutional in Superior Court and Supreme Court.[1]
o Passed by a special session of the Democratically controlled legislature in 2007.
* I-776 (2002) - Cut local motor vehicle excise taxes.
o Passed by voters
* I-267 (2002) - Divert money from the general fund for road building.
o Failed to qualify for ballot.
* I-807 (2003) - Require a supermajority vote for all tax increases.
o Failed to qualify for ballot.
* I-864 (2003) - Cut property taxes by 25%.
o Failed to qualify for ballot.
* I-892 (2004) - Legalize slot machines.
o Defeated by voters.
* I-900 (2004) - Give state auditor ability to conduct performance audits.
o Passed by voters.
* Referendum 65 (2006) - Repeal ESHB 2661 legalizing sexual orientation discrimination.
o Failed to qualify for ballot.
* I-917 (2006) - Cap motor vehicle registration charge at $30 a year.
o Failed to qualify for ballot.
* I-960 (2007) - Require 2/3 majority in state Legislature to raise taxes and fees.
o Passed by voters.

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