Tim Eyman with Mark Schoesler
Tim Eyman with Mark Schoesler

Sound­ing very much like a spokesman for top Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Mark Schoesler of Ritzville, Tim Eyman this morn­ing sent out an email offer­ing a ring­ing, fer­vent endorse­ment of the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans’ pro­posed bud­get for 2017–2019, which would increase prop­er­ty tax­es on many Washingtonians.

“Here’s how my day went yes­ter­day: drove to and from Olympia through hor­ren­dous traf­fic both ways, tes­ti­fied at a 1:30 pm hear­ing where I spoke out against a hor­ri­ble anti-tax­pay­er bill, sat in on and lis­tened to Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee’s hys­ter­i­cal press con­fer­ence, and then tes­ti­fied at a 3:30 pm hear­ing in favor of Sen­ate Repub­li­can’s no-new-tax­es bud­get (which I said earned an A+ on the tax­pay­ers report card),” Eyman wrote in an email to his followers.

After heap­ing scorn on Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee’s bold and excel­lent ideas for revamp­ing our upside down tax code, Eyman reem­pha­sized his endorse­ment: “The Sen­ate Repub­li­cans have pro­posed a sus­tain­able $43 bil­lion bud­get that does­n’t uni­lat­er­al­ly impose tax increas­es. That’s a seri­ous budget.”

No, it’s a scam.

I’ve been orga­niz­ing oppo­si­tion to Tim Eyman ini­tia­tives for over fif­teen years. I can’t remem­ber Tim Eyman ever endors­ing a multi­bil­lion dol­lar tax increase.

But I guess there’s a first time for everything.

Last month, Eyman offered a tac­it endorse­ment of this scheme; now he’s offer­ing an overt one. Per­haps he’s feel­ing less ashamed at hav­ing sold out.

What Sen­ate Repub­li­cans are try­ing to do here is tru­ly shame­ful. They want to raise the prop­er­ty tax­es of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans who are pri­mar­i­ly rep­re­sent­ed by Democ­rats, while low­er­ing them on Wash­ing­to­ni­ans they rep­re­sent. That way, they can false­ly claim to have addressed the Supreme Court’s McCleary deci­sion while hav­ing secured a reduc­tion in prop­er­ty tax­es for their own con­stituents at the same time.

Our pub­lic schools would remain under­fund­ed, while prop­er­ty own­ers in urban and sub­ur­ban school dis­tricts would be required to pay more in prop­er­ty tax­es. The Repub­li­cans’ “plan” is a giant, self-serv­ing wealth transfer.

It was­n’t that long ago that Tim Eyman was call­ing foul on this very idea.

As I not­ed in a post last month, back in April of 2015, Tim Eyman was loud­ly exco­ri­at­ing the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans for propos­ing a sim­i­lar prop­er­ty tax levy swipe, and call­ing on Gov­er­nor Inslee to save the day. Here’s what Eyman said then:

RE: Sen­ate Repub­li­cans pro­pose mas­sive prop­er­ty tax hike — will Inslee save the day?

Can­di­date Inslee ridiculed the so-called “prop­er­ty tax levy swap.” He repeat­ed­ly called it a “gim­mick”. He said it was “a clas­sic maneu­ver by politi­cians in Olympia.” He said it was a “shell game” that raised tax­es on near­ly half of all prop­er­ty tax pay­ers. He tore into it with vig­or and verve. He was emphat­ic. He was unambiguous.

The peo­ple elect­ed a man who adamant­ly opposed this.

Will Gov­er­nor Inslee come rid­ing to the res­cue when it comes to the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans’ bill (Sen­ate Bill 6109) which does exact­ly what he ridiculed? In today’s Taco­ma News Tri­bune, they report the Repub­li­cans’ bill “would raise prop­er­ty tax­es in more than 40 per­cent of Washington’s school districts.”

Inslee despised it as a can­di­date, will he stop it as Gov­er­nor? Can we count on him to pro­tect us from this mas­sive prop­er­ty tax hike?

That email was writ­ten Tues­day, April 23rd, 2015 — almost exact­ly twen­ty-three months ago. Here we are in 2017, and Tim Eyman is cheer­ing on the levy swipe scheme he once called a mas­sive prop­er­ty tax hike. Why? I think it’s because Eyman reached an under­stand­ing with the Sen­ate Republicans.

His deal with them may be a con­se­quence of the dis­in­te­gra­tion of his ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry. Eyman craves rel­e­vance, but his base of donors con­tin­ues to shrink, and he’s been unable to get any of the ini­tia­tives he’s recent­ly pro­posed off the ground.

Mean­while, he remains under inves­ti­ga­tion by Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son’s office for seri­ous, fla­grant pub­lic dis­clo­sure law vio­la­tions. Fer­gu­son’s office is also suing him and his com­mit­tees over an array of addi­tion­al violations.

Eyman has slow­ly been tran­si­tion­ing from ini­tia­tive pitch­man to Olympia lob­by­ist; he makes reg­u­lar appear­ances in front of House and Sen­ate com­mit­tees, tes­ti­fy­ing in sup­port of or oppo­si­tion to leg­is­la­tion he’s inter­est­ed in. How­ev­er, he has not reg­is­tered as a lob­by­ist, even though lob­by­ing is arguably now his occupation.

Each side ben­e­fits from the new arrange­ment. Eyman is now inside the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans’ tent and repeat­ing the par­ty line, which means Repub­li­cans don’t have to wor­ry about him under­min­ing their schemes at inop­por­tune moments.

For Eyman, an alliance with the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans means he’s less alone in dif­fi­cult times. (Eyman made a big show of dis­trib­ut­ing pho­tos depict­ing him with mem­bers of the Sen­ate Repub­li­can cau­cus back in the winter.)

Eyman’s lat­est ini­tia­tive, I‑1550, would iron­i­cal­ly cut prop­er­ty tax rev­enue by 25%. Pas­sage of I‑1550 would dev­as­tate the vital pub­lic ser­vices we all rely on and ruin what­ev­er bud­get the Leg­is­la­ture and Gov­er­nor Inslee even­tu­al­ly agree on.

Eyman announced I‑1550 weeks ago, but so far it appears to be just anoth­er one of his recent crop of fake ini­tia­tives — mean­ing an ini­tia­tive he’s pre­tend­ing to try to qual­i­fy so he has an excuse to send out twice-week­ly fundrais­ing emails.

Sen­ate Repub­li­cans like­ly know that Eyman’s fundrais­ing has dried up and thus are uncon­cerned about I‑1550 or its poten­tial impacts. They fig­ure an aging Eyman still makes a good attack dog. And the des­per­ate, dis­graced ini­tia­tive pro­mot­er has decid­ed to embrace the role they want him to have.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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