Eyman Initiative Aims to Create Endless Gridlock

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Eyman Initiative Aims to Create Endless Gridlock

By - July 14, 2015

Serial anti-tax initiative writer Tim Eyman is seeking to bring back to life a disastrous “supermajority” law – which, if passed, would make it nearly impossible to eliminate wasteful corporate tax breaks or to enact new taxes that invest in our schools and other important services.

Eyman’s Initiative 1366, which has likely garnered enough signatures to appear on the November 2015 ballot, attempts to coerce the Legislature into passing a constitutional amendment that would mandate a two-thirds vote of the Legislature for tax increases. The initiative states that unless the Legislature passes and places this supermajority constitutional amendment on the November 2016 ballot, it would automatically reduce the state sales tax to 5.5 percent from 6.5 percent. This reduction would cost the state’s K-12 schools, community colleges, universities, and public safety more than $1 billion per year.

If Eyman’s attempt succeeds, a law requiring a two-thirds supermajority vote of the Legislature or a vote of the people to raise any tax will be permanently carved into our state constitution. Under the law, corporate lobbyists would only need to persuade 17 state senators to block efforts to repeal wasteful tax corporate breaks or raise taxes on ultra-wealthy CEOs.

Placing so much power in the hands of a small minority of legislators is a recipe for bringing increased  gridlock to Olympia. It would allow a small handful of legislators to stand in the way of any attempt to close tax breaks or raise taxes for any reason.

If the Legislature does not vote to amend the constitution as Eyman’s initiative demands, the resulting sales tax reduction would mean that many investments that help build a strong economy would immediately face sharp cuts or be eliminated altogether. These resources would be terminated at a time when lawmakers are under a court order to increase funding for schools by billions of dollars. I-1366 would make it nearly impossible to build a future in which our kids and grandkids have the opportunity to thrive.

Eyman’s previous supermajority law efforts were struck down by the State Supreme Court in 2012. With I-1366, he is now trying to strong-arm, under threat of deep cuts to communities, our elected officials into permanently writing a supermajority law into the state constitution.

As we’ve written previously, the supermajority law is a proven failure in Washington state. While it was in effect during much of the Great Recession, it hampered the state’s economic recovery by preventing lawmakers from raising resources needed to support investments in job training, child care, care for seniors, and other important programs when they were most needed.

The bottom line is that Eyman’s attempt to force the Legislature into passing a supermajority amendment, under threat of deep cuts to communities, is harmful and irresponsible. If his dangerous coercion attempt (funded by a small group of wealthy, elitist backers) succeeds, it will be impossible to close wasteful corporate tax breaks or raise other equitable sources of revenue to build a better education system for our kids. It could also trigger a massive reduction in sales tax revenues, forcing deep cuts to investments that support thriving communities for all Washingtonians.

About Andy Nicholas, Senior Fellow

Andy specializes in state budget and tax policy. Since joining the Budget & Policy Center in 2009, he has served on a Legislative Task Force on Tax Preference Reform and has conducted numerous analyses of Washington state’s tax code.

Read more about Andy