Tim Eyman's back—and this time it's personal.
Everyone's favorite tax-cutter is miffed because opponents of his Initiative 747 have taken to the radio waves to encourage citizens not to sign it—and to bash Tim along the way. "If paid signature-gatherers ask you to support I-747," the announcer intones, "tell them we don't need another Tim Eyman initiative threatening our communities."
Eyman is not amused. "It's a pretty transparent attempt to try to distract people away from the [substance] of the initiative," he says.
Substantially speaking, I-747 is Eyman's most basic proposal yet. In 1999 his measure to cut the cost of car tabs to $30 passed at the polls, and a property tax limitation effort earned voter approval last year; however, both of these complex ballot issues were later ruled unconstitutional. Initiative 747 would change just one word of state law—in the provision that allows municipalities to increase property taxes by 6 percent annually without a public vote. Under I-747, the automatic yearly property tax bump would be limited to 1 percent.
State workers, already hopping mad about the paltry pay raises offered by legislators, aren't exactly Eyman fans. The local and national public employee unions are the two major contributors (anteing up $25,000 and $50,000 donations, respectively) to the No on I-747 Committee. "Make no mistake," says Seattle political consultant Christian Sinderman, the committee's campaign manager. "Eyman is beginning to wear out his welcome with the voters."
Eyman demurs, noting that the No on I-747 Committee has just four contributors—quite a contrast with the hundreds of donors to his own committee, Permanent Offense. He also cites an internal union memorandum that he says encourages illegal interference with I-747 signature-gatherers. Sinderman responds that the memo merely asks members to distribute anti-747 literature, so potential petition-signers get both sides of the issue.
The two sides don't agree on much. Sinderman says that, since two of Eyman's creations were thrown out in court and a third failed at the polls, the Mukilteo activist "is batting 0-for-3." Eyman, on the other hand, counts his two wins at the polls as victories, and argues that he's batting .666. (Could that be an omen?)
But even Sinderman acknowledges that Eyman's fund-raising chops make him a good bet to gather the 197,734 signatures by July 6 that the initiative needs to qualify for the ballot. Says Sinderman: "No one's ever been denied ballot access when they're raising a quarter of a million dollars to get it there."