New Eyman initiative could make transportation projects grind to a halt

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OLYMPIA, Wash. —

Initiative promoter Tim Eyman is spoiling for another fight over a two-thirds majority for tax increases.

 This time, he’s filing an initiative that would require an annual vote in the Washington State Legislature on each tax increase unless the legislature puts a constitutional amendment requiring a 2/3rd’s vote to raise taxes on the ballot.

The initiative says, “Any tax increase imposed by the legislature after January 1, 2013, is limited to one year.”  Lawmakers could get around the limit by referring the tax increase to the voters.

For example, the legislature may pass a 10 percent gas tax increase.  Under Eyman’s initiative, the increase would not be permanent and would have to be voted on every year. 

 “If maybe they raised it too much, then it forces them to reevaluate it and decide whether or not it's worth keeping, whether or not it's backfiring or whether or not they can raise the tax a little bit less the next time,” said Eyman.

Opponents said the initiative could make some of the state’s most important public projects, especially transportation improvements, grind to a halt.

 “"It would tie our hands, completely. It would make it impossible to bond,” said Rep.  Judy Clibborn of Mercer Island and chair of the House Transportation Committee.

 Clibborn said no contractor would want to commit or want to buy 30 year bonds from a state that had to re-vote every year on the taxes that pay for those bonds.

 "It's not just about transportation. What company would come here, if you can't make a decision that lasts longer than a year?"  It would be a disaster for us,” Clibborn said.

Eyman admits he has a much bigger goal in mind.  Under the initiative, the legislature can dodge the annual re-votes if it passes a constitutional amendment reinstating the two-thirds supermajority for tax increases. 

The state Supreme Court recently overturned an Eyman initiative requiring the two-thirds vote on taxes.  A constitutional amendment would protect it from the courts. 

Eyman plans to file his initiative in Olympia Wednesday morning.