Raining Initiatives


(Illustration: Nicholas Brawley)

Today the state Supreme Court tossed out I-747 saying the writers of the property tax cap lied to voters. In election materials, backers said they were proposing to reduce the cap from 2 percent to 1 percent. The original cap was at 6 percent and state law requires that any such amendments precisely state the original text they are proposing to change. The decision was split, but 5-4 or 9-0, Adam Smith devotees lost today. Tim Eyman, a sponsor, is predictably freaking out, saying all our property taxes will skyrocket some 30 percent next year, and the communists will win.

But this isn't the first time an Initiative, especially an Eyman one, has appeared on the ballot, gotten the green light from voters, only to be struck down in the courts. It takes 200,000ish signatures to get just about anything on the ballot in Washington. The language is often confusing, if not downright false. And the goals are often incongruous, we Washingtonians really think we might be able to have our cake (tax relief) and eat it too (raise teacher salaries). But more often than not we don't get any of what we want.

Citizen participation in democracy is a noble aspiration, but we're not very good at it. Maybe we can start an initiative to ban all Eyman initiatives. We passed his last one, I-960, requiring two-thirds approval from the legislature to raise taxes, it was the third initiative he'd tried to get on the ballot this year. Good idea or no, if it faces a court challenge, Eyman better hope his fact checking skills have improved.

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