Initiative guru Eyman loses I-1185 argument in court

By

Published:

 

Tim Eyman tried his hand as a lawyer in court Friday and pretty much lost his shorts.

A Thurston County judge threw out the initiative promoter's claim that the Office of Financial Management needs to change its estimate of taxpayer costs for Initiative 1185 in the voters pamphlet.

I-1185 — which seeks to reassert a two-thirds legislative vote requirement for tax hikes and a simple majority vote requirement for all fee increases — is one of a half-dozen measures on the ballot Nov. 6. Superior Court Judge James Dixon ruled that OFM has discretion under the law and that the legal tests were not met for him to order a revision of the statement for the voter pamphlet.

"For that reason, this petition simply fails, or must be denied as a matter of law," Dixon said flatly.

Eyman argued there is no cost and contended the OFM claim that as much as $33 million in toll revenue could be lost because the I-1185 removes the right of the Transportation Commission to set tolls was reckless. He contended that the state should have reused its fiscal-impact statement for I-1053 from 2010, which he said is the same as his new proposal.

But OFM, citing attorney general opinions, said the new measure would "re-set" the legislative vote requirement — or delegation of authority — for toll rates on state highways. So there would be a fiscal impact — although lawmakers could remedy it with a simple vote.

What it all means now is the Office of the Secretary of State can move ahead with printing voter pamphlets that include fiscal impact statements from OFM on ballot measures. And it means that Eyman, who is sponsor of I-1185 and its two-thirds vote requirement for Legislature-imposed tax increases, can get back to campaigning.

I-1185's committee has raised $1.3 million and spent $1.2 million of it just getting the measure onto the ballot. Major donations came chiefly from a group of special interests — including $400,000 from the Beer Institute in Washington, D.C., $110,000 from BP Oil in Chicago, $100,000 from Conoco Phillips in Washington, D.C., $50,000 from the Washington Restaurant Association, $45,500 from the Association of Washington Business and $20,000 from the Washington Farm Bureau — that want to block the chance of any new taxes.

Opponents' campaign committee, which is chaired by former state transportation secretary Douglas MacDonald, has raised just $25,000, all of it from the Service Employees International Union's state council.

Yet the whole initiative might be moot. The two-thirds requirement for taxes is already law in I-1053, but a King County judge has ruled that the restriction on the Legislature is unconstitutional. An appeal is headed to the state Supreme Court this fall.