Tim Eyman's Five "New" Initiatives Look Awfully Familiar

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Yesterday Initiative King Tim Eyman filed not one, not two, but five separate initiatives. It's the biggest avalanche of paperwork Eyman has ever unleashed on the state in such a short period of time. But a closer look reveals he's not exactly breaking new ground.

Eyman's thus-far-unnamed ballot measures would require a 2/3 majority to raise taxes, privatize liquor stores, reinstate the $30 car tab, challenge red-light cameras, and regulate tolling. Of those five issues, Eyman has already addressed three in recent years. And last November voters turned down a pair of measures which would have privatized liquor sales.

At first blush it seems that Eyman is really feeling his Wheaties, trying to take on so many topics at once. But he says it's doubtful more than one or two of the initiatives will end up on the ballot.

In short, Eyman is counting on Olympia lawmakers to give him a vacation in 2011. The five initiatives are a sort of Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. Make the wrong move and it's gorilla-suit-wearing time.

Of the lot, Son of I-1053 (or Grandson of I-960, if you will) seems most likely to reach the ballot. I-1053, which passed by an overwhelming margin last November, reinstated I-960, which required a 2/3-vote margin by the Legislature to raise taxes. The latter was overturned during the last legislative session in Olympia.

Eyman says that there's a question whether it will be on the ballot in 2011. Despite pleas of poverty, there hasn't been a lot of desire for lawmakers to overturn I-1053 this go-round, despite budgetary woes.

"We're ready to go in 2011, just in case these guys go hog-wild," Eyman said.

It seems that with the remaining four initiatives, Eyman is content to let representative democracy take its course. For now.

Representative Chris Hurst (D-Enumclaw) and Jim McCune (R-Graham) are introducing bills to regulate the ability of cities and counties to utilize red-light cameras, standardize the duration of yellow lights, and to limit traffic fines from their use. Their passage, or that of a similar bill, could negate the need for the red-light-camera initiative.

There has also been a desire of several lawmakers to reform the state's monopoly on liquor sales. Last November, backers of I-1100 failed to convince a majority of voters to completely privatize the sale of liquor in Washington. Despite this, elements of that initiative remain politically viable.

Eyman said that the failure of I-1100 was due to the fear of a proliferation of liquor stores in every corner grocery and gas station in the state. His initiative, Son of I-1100, would limit the sale of alcohol to large retailers--anything over 9,000 square feet--and to current state liquor-store locations.

In a sort of a golden-oldies tribute, he's also brushed off the Wayback Machine and filed another $30 car tabs initiative. And filling out the inside straight is the thorniest issue of the lot.

Eyman calls it the "Gas Taxes and Toll Revenue Protection Act." At the heart of the matter is tolling on the 520 bridge. The Washington State Transportation Commission has imposed a variable toll on the road as high as $3.50 one way, a levy some think will cause many commuters to use the I-90 floating bridge instead.

It's been suggested that a toll is also needed on I-90 to prevent this. Eyman cites Washington's 18th Amendment, which prohibits transportation dollars from being raided for other uses.

"Tolls paid for a project should go for that project," Eyman said. "Once they are paid for, they should go away. They think that tolls should go on forever, be imposed on anyone, and used for anything. We shouldn't toll one bridge to pay for another bridge."

 
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