The latest anti-tax initiative launched by political activist Tim Eyman is a disaster waiting to happen and already is causing legal chaos.
Opponents who foresee the potential danger of Initiative 1366 have filed a lawsuit in order to prevent it from making the November ballot because they believe it oversteps the scope of power given the initiative process.
While we sympathize with the plaintiffs, we are concerned that asking the courts to deny citizens the chance to decide the issue will set a disturbing precedent.
The legal details are what likely will make or break the case. But in the general spirit of voter rights and open government, we believe two things should happen — I-1366 should be allowed on the ballot, and then voters should reject it.
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The initiative is an extortion measure wrought with problems. If approved, it would devastate the state budget unless the Legislature bows to the will of Eyman and his backers.
Washington voters historically have supported measures that would require a legislative, two-thirds supermajority vote on state tax increases, but the rule was struck down as unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court in 2013.
Since amendments to the state constitution cannot happen through the initiative process, I-1366 is an attempt at an end-run around that decision.
This initiative would force legislators to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot requiring the two-thirds supermajority vote for tax increases.
If they don’t send the measure to voters by April 2016, then I-1366 requires the state sales tax be cut a penny from the current 6.5 cents per dollar. State analysts say the reduction would result in a revenue loss of $8 billion over the next six years. Such a cut would ruin the state’s education and social service programs.
Blackmailing state legislators is an abuse of the initiative process. But as alarming as I-1366 is, filing a lawsuit to keep it off the ballot also is unsettling.
Usually, the legality of an initiative is determined after it has been approved by voters. Using the courts to forbid a proposal before it makes the ballot could start a frightening trend that would discourage future citizen efforts to change state laws.
Even the most ill-conceived measures deserve debate.
Initiatives cause anxiety for state officials because they are typically not the best way to make law. There is no compromising, no hashing out of details and no thought to how to implement changes — especially if they are financial — once the initiative is approved.
I-1366 is a mix of troubling issues.
Eyman and his supporters are manipulating the initiative process to get their way, and that leaves a bad taste. Even so, we believe they have the right to pursue the effort and put the measure on the ballot.
We just hope voters don’t swallow what they’re offering.