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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Memo to Tim Eyman: Ballot title changes to I-1098 don't hurt the measure's chances

Over at The Olympian's Politics blog, reporter Brad Shannon has a recap of yesterday's happenings in Thurston County Superior Court, where Judge Richard Hicks ruled on the final ballot title language for Initiative 1098, the new version of the high-earners income tax proposal championed by William Gates Sr. At the end of his post, Shannon includes Tim Eyman's reaction to the ballot title challenge, filed by conservative Dick Schrock:
The measure, which is backed by Gates and others who want to spread the tax burden and help fund education, replaces an earlier version, I-1077, that did not take into account the tax and effects on domestic partners. The new version means that same-sex, registered domestic partners would pay the tax rates of married couples, [campaign spokesman Sandeep] Kaushik said.

Kaushik said his group wanted the income thresholds in the summary. But Tim Eyman, a tax critic, said he thinks Schrock and the income-tax foes won by inserting the words "state income tax" high up on the ballot item. Eyman said that will be a "stink bomb" for voters.

The AG's Office initially used a broader phrase "taxation" in hopes of avoiding future legal tangles around the single-subject rule that governs ballot measures, according to Jay Geck, deputy solicitor general.
The old statement of subject was:
Initiative Measure No. 1098 concerns taxation.
The new statement of subject is:
Initiative Measure No. 1098 concerns establishing a state income tax and reducing other taxes.
The concise description remains unchanged:
This measure would tax ‘adjusted gross income’ above $200,000 (individuals) and $400,000 (joint-filers), reduce state property tax levies, reduce certain business and occupation taxes, and direct any increased revenues to education and health.
And that simple change is supposed to be a victory for the right wing? We happen to like the new statement of subject better. It's more specific.

By the time Election Day rolls around, only a voter living under a rock will have failed to comprehend that I-1098 aims to establish a high-earners income tax. What's more, the words "tax" and "income" were always in the concise description, which appears on every voter's ballot as part of the ballot title.

Dick Schrock didn't win anything. Tim Eyman didn't win anything. This is one of the most pathetic attempts at spin I've ever seen.

How typical for a conservative to think that the presence and placement of a couple of words will scare the electorate silly and make a difference in their favor.

Certainly word choice and framing matter, but the words "income tax" don't signify a bad idea, they signify a good idea: A more progressive tax system where the wealthy pay their fair share. And voters have already demonstrated they want a progressive tax system. When Washingtonians weighed in on an effort to repeal the estate tax four years ago (Initiative 920), they resoundingly opted to keep the estate tax, which is dedicated to the Education Legacy Trust.

Tim Eyman is very fond of boasting that voters are smart. If that's true, than voters will examine this proposal on its merits, and they won't automatically reject it simply because its core is an idea that the right wing fervently opposes.


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