Eymans’ I-976, “Permanent Offense”

I-976 is Tim Eyman’s latest destructive Initiative.

If you want to maintain and improve our transportation system in Washington State vote NO on Tim Eyman’s Initiative Measure No. 976. It’s the second item on November General Election ballot mailed out this week.

As always with an Eyman initiative, the framing is clever: “Rebel against registration fees imposed by that nasty, grasping government! They have no right!” This is the Republican anti-tax, anti-government orthodoxy best expressed by Grover Norquist, Republican/Libertarian lobbyist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” The Republican Party has promoted this line for decades: Taxes are bad. Taxes need “reform.” Let’s reduce taxes [especially on the wealthy, but don’t pay attention to that!]. Government is inefficient and corrupt and deserves to be defunded! (Psst! the wonderful private sector will do it better [and magically make a profit, too]!)

Auto registration fees are an integral part of how we currently fund a wide range of infrastructure and transportation in the State of Washington (See Voters’ Pamphlet). Eyman wants to take a wrecking ball to our complex but workable system solely for the purpose of messing with it–and using a visible fee as the excuse. He does so with no care for the cost of readjustment. Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the U.S. (see P.S. below). I could side with Mr. Eyman’s initiative if it were part of a comprehensive reform leading to a less regressive tax system, but Eyman is not a big picture, let’s-all-pull-together-and-make-government-work kind of guy. He is the initiative version of a soundbite, a quick poke at government for the purpose of inflicting damage. The state, counties, and cities need funds to build and maintain the roads we all drive on–and all the rest of the infrastructure of civilization upon which we depend. All I-976 would do is make the funding more problematic.

I-976 is one of twenty nasty but often deviously clever initiatives and one referendum sponsored over the last 20 years by Mr. Eyman. He is a conservative political bomb thrower from Yakima who now lives in Mukilteo, WA. I encourage my readers to review the history of this man’s efforts and legal problems assembled in Wikipedia. His bent and general demeanor is on display in the name of the Political Action Committee he founded: “Permanent Offense,” (Even more to Eyman’s real intent, the full name is PERMANENT OFFENSE — $30 TABS INITIATIVE — TERM LIMITS — GIVE THEM NOTHING, 2019.) Eyman’s first incarnation of I-976 (I-695, on the ballot in 1999) was later declared unconstitutional on multiple technical grounds by the WA State Supreme Court, but not before Eyman was recognized by the Conservative Political Action Committee in 2000 with the “Ronald Reagan Award” (Seattle Times), a sure sign of his destructive intent.

Eyman’s I-976 is purely meant to throw a monkey wrench into the way we struggle to fund transportation. Over six years it will rob the state and local governments of an estimated 4.2 billion dollars and over the 2019-21 biennium cost nearly 3 billion dollars to implement (Voters’ Pamphlet), never mind all the time and taxpayers’ money that was wasted on dealing with his 1999 initiative. Tell Tim Eyman we’re wise to him. Vote NO on I-976. Then let’s roll up our sleeves and deal with the broader tax structure issues of our state.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. The non-partisan Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy rates Washington State as having the most regressive tax system in the country: Their data show the lowest 20 percent of income earners in Washington State, families making less than $24,000, contribute almost 18 percent of their annual earnings to state and local tax coffers, while the top 1 percent (those making over $545,900) pay just 3 percent of their income. Explore that here.