Eyman, Fagans want public vote on tax hikes

OLYMPIA — Unable to ask voters again to approve an initiative that requires a supermajority for tax increases, a group of self-described tax fighters will try to prod the Legislature into putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Perennial initiative sponsors Tim Eyman, of Mukilteo, and Mike Fagan and Jack Fagan, of Spokane, filed an initiative Wednesday that would require a public vote on any tax increase, a one-year limit on any new tax and an advisory vote on whether voters should get to vote on a constitutional amendment that requires any tax increase to pass the Legislature with a two-thirds majority.

The initiative comes with an “escape clause” that says if the Legislature puts that constitutional amendment up to a public vote, all the other provisions go away.

“It’s time for Olympia to drop the ‘father knows best’ attitude,” Eyman told reporters as the trio submitted paperwork for the initiative and paid the $5 filing fee. Voters “have earned the right for permanent protection,” he said.

Voters actually need protection from Eyman and the Fagans and their anti-tax initiatives, said Andrew Villaneuve of the Northwest Progressive Institute and Steve Zemke of Tax Sanity. Requiring a supermajority to pass tax increases but allowing the Legislature to pass exemptions for particular groups with a simple majority locks in inequities in the tax system, Zemke said.

“They’re recycling a failed idea,” Villaneuve said.

The trio has succeeded at the ballot box with a series of initiatives that required a supermajority in the Legislature in order to pass tax increases.

But earlier this year, the state Supreme Court said such a change requires a constitutional amendment, a process that requires a two-thirds majority in each legislative chamber plus a simple majority from voters. The Legislature hasn’t passed such a measure this year and isn’t likely to do so before the regular session ends Sunday.

The Fagans wore long-sleeved T-shirts that said “Let the Voters Decide.” Earlier this week, Mike Fagan, in his role as a Spokane city councilman, said attorneys should study a pair of proposed city initiatives to see if they should be kept off the ballot, even if they collect the necessary signatures.

Mike Fagan said he doesn’t think the Spokane initiatives are constitutional and would cost the city money for legal challenges if they pass. That’s something critics said about a previous supermajority initiative that he and Eyman sponsored. But Fagan said he has to separate his role as an initiative activist from his role as a councilman, and has a responsibility as a city official to be careful with the public’s money.