Eyman defends tax advisory votes – vote “REJECT” on tax increases imposed

by | Oct 27, 2017

Tell next year’s Legislature that you’re against them raising taxes by voting “REJECT” on Tax Advisory Votes 16, 17, and 18 on the November statewide ballot. On Monday, my column defending tax advisory votes was published in the Walla Walla Union Bulletin:

Tax advisory votes, Voters’ Pamphlets serve as report card

By Tim Eyman, Special to the Union-Bulletin Oct 23, 2017

The Union-Bulletin seems to be furious with me because one of my voter-approved initiatives guarantees voters the right to vote on this year’s crop of tax increases (http://tinyurl.com/ycql43lo). Tax advisory votes are once again on the ballot and in the Voters’ Pamphlet this year.

To appreciate and understand why this relatively new policy is beneficial, it’s important to know why they were created in the first place.

A little history: In 2002, the Legislature created a new tax on businesses’ unemployment insurance. Significantly, its bill did not include an emergency clause.

So the citizens filed a referendum, spent 90 days getting the necessary voter signatures, and qualified it for a public vote after a vigorous multi-month debate. The voters voted on Referendum 53 and decided to repeal it. That referendum was challenged in court, but a unanimous state Supreme Court sided with the people, upholding the voters’ veto of the Legislature’s tax increase.

It was a perfect example of the right to referendum guaranteed in our state constitution being utilized. The people exercised their rights and were victorious.

But the Legislature didn’t like that outcome, not one bit. Its members must’ve said to themselves, “What the heck are we doing letting the unwashed masses second-guess our taxing decisions? We’ve gotta stop this from ever happening again.”

So the Legislature set out to essentially repeal the referendum power, and frankly, it succeeded. R-53 in 2002 was the last referendum on taxes our state has ever had. Since then, for 15 years, the Legislature has raised taxes numerous times, but not once has there been a referendum like R-53 to give the people the chance to vote on it.

How’d they do it? Since 2003, the Legislature now regularly and consistently slaps emergency clauses on tax bills, making them referendum-proof. So even though voters have a constitutional right to referendum, the Legislature has found a way to take it away.

Politicians’ elimination of the people’s referendum power is, in my view, a gross injustice.

So in 2007, when drafting Initiative 960, we included a new policy called a tax advisory vote. It does not allow the public to veto a tax increase, the way a referendum does, but an advisory vote at least puts each blocked tax increase on the ballot for voters to vote on. And voters get to learn which taxes were raised, how much they’re going to cost, and lists how each legislator voted on each tax increase.

So now, whenever the Legislature raises taxes and blocks the people from doing a referendum by declaring an emergency, there is a tax advisory vote.

There have been 15 tax advisory votes so far. Most significantly, the election results from the two tax advisory votes in 2012 were cited by then-state Sen. Rodney Tom as one of the main reasons he formed the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (http://tinyurl.com/y7cgtecl).

This year, the Legislature unilaterally imposed several tax increases. The state budget office confirms these tax increases will cost taxpayers $17.6 billion over the next 10 years. Here they are:

Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1597 imposes new taxes on ocean water; costs taxpayers $546,000.

Enhanced House Bill 2163 imposes higher taxes on bottled water, self-produced fuel, and internet purchases; costs taxpayers $4.6 billion

Enhanced House Bill 2242 imposes higher property taxes; costs taxpayers $12.9 billion.

According to our state constitution, the taxpayers had the guaranteed right to challenge these tax increases with a referendum. But we were denied that right because the Legislature declared these tax increases as “emergencies,” making them immune to citizen referendum.

But thanks to voters approving tax advisory votes with our initiatives in 2007, 2010 and 2012, this year’s Voters’ Pamphlets and ballots are once again serving as a tax increase report card. Voters are getting to learn which taxes were increased, what each tax increase will cost and how each legislator voted on each tax increase. And the voters are getting to vote on each one.

Rather than attacking me for creating tax advisory votes, why doesn’t the Union-Bulletin criticize the Legislature for making them necessary in the first place? It’s a travesty that politicians have taken away one of our most cherished constitutional rights.

But at least the people have fought back and created something that gives the voters a greater voice in Olympia’s taxing decisions. And I’m proud of that.

Tim Eyman is currently sponsoring Bring Back Our $30 Tabs Initiative 947. tim.eyman@gmail.com, 509-991-5295, www.VotersWantMoreChoices.com