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Tim Eyman

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Eyman filing the "Save the 2/3rds vote for Tax Increase" initiative in January 2010.
Photo credit: Office of the Washington Secretary of State
Tim Eyman (b. 1965) is a prominent political activist in Washington who has sponsored or worked on at least several dozen initiative campaigns in the state of Washington. Of the 12 Eyman initiatives that qualified for the ballot, seven have been approved by voters. The most recent Eyman initiative to win approval was I-960 in 2007.

For the November 2, 2010 ballot in Washington, Eyman is sponsoring a Save the Two-Thirds Vote for Tax Increases initiative.

Ballot initiatives


Defeatedd Statewide measure I-1125 called for the prohibition of gas tax and toll revenues to be diverted to non-transportation purposes. Additionally, it required that lawmakers approve toll rates. It was defeated.


Approveda Local measure Initiative 2 in Mukilteo required a public vote before any traffic enforcement cameras were installed and limited fines to $20. The measure was approved.

Approveda Statewide measure I-1053, required the legislature to receive either two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval to raise taxes, and require majority legislative approval to increase fees. It was approved.


Defeatedd Washington Lower Property Taxes, Initiative 1033 (2009)


For the November 2008 ballot in Washington, Eyman supported the Washington Reduce Traffic Congestion Initiative, I-985, which was unsuccessful. 60.13% voted against it.

2008 was described by a political journalist in the State of Washington as "Tim Eyman's Great Year"[1] at the same time that Democratic members of the Washington State Legislature, ultimately unsuccessfully, pushed Washington House Bill 2601 with its aggressive new restrictions on the initiative process.[2],[3] HB 2601 was widely viewed as a legislative attempt to make it harder for Eyman to put ballot measures before the state's voters.


For the November 2007 ballot, Eyman and his group supported the Washington Taxpayer Protection Initiative, I-960, which was approved with 816,792 votes in favor and 777,125 against. I-960 requires a two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval for tax increases, legislative approval of fee increases, the publication of information on tax-increasing bills, and advisory votes on taxes enacted without voter approval. I-960 was wildly unpopular with Washington's political establishment.


Eyman did not qualify any initiatives for the 2006 Washington ballot, but he did work on three initiatives which did not make the ballot:

  • R-65. This measure was intended as a veto referendum of the recently enacted Washington House Bill 2661. HB 2661 added sexual orientation to the list of categories against which discrimination in housing, lending, and employment is banned in the state of Washington.[4] The signature-collection effort fell 7,000 signatures short of the 112,440 required signatures.[5]
  • Eyman filed wording with the Washington Secretary of State for an initiative that would have prohibited public universities in the state from taking an applicant's race and gender into account when making admission decisions.
  • I-917, an initiative that would have capped motor vehicle registration charges at $30 per year. 266,006 signatures were submitted. Based on a random sampling test of 4% of the submitted signatures, which found a fairly typical invalidation rate of 17.96%, it was determined that there were insufficient signatures.[6],[7],[8]


Tim Eyman bobbleheads are sold on E-Bay and elsewhere to raise money for Eyman campaigns

After the defeat of Initiative 892 in November of 2004, Eyman immediately set to work on his next initiative, which eventually became Performance Audits of Government Initiative 900. Eyman continued to promote I-900 throughout the winter and into the spring.

With public support and backing from Mike Dunmire, Eyman gathered enough funds to pay paid-signature gatherers to educate the public and obtain more than enough signatures to ensure Initiative 900 a spot on the 2005 general election ballot in Washington.

In the summer of 2005, after Initiative 900 had qualified, The Olympian (see [1]) reported on Eyman's funding: Eyman's I-900, which proposes an expansion of performance audits for state and local agencies - with the intent of increasing accountability of government employees and agencies.

Critics of Eyman contended that Initiative 900 was a poorly drafted, flawed measure that didn't do anything to help government. However, because many critics saw it as ineffective and not very harmful, it attracted little opposition. The public passed the measure in November of 2005.


Property tax cut:

In 2004, Eyman announced Initiative 864, his refined initiative which now targeted local property taxes with a 25% cut. Opponents sought to raise public fear calling the proposal outrageous and said it would gut public services such as libraries, pools, parks, fire districts, and police departments. The idea for I-864 was originally announced in June 2003, but from July 2003 to January 2004, Eyman collected money to support his efforts. From January 2004 to July 2004, Eyman collected money for I-864.

Despite Eyman and his group's best efforts, the initiative died on July 2, 2004. The group gathered about 155,000 signatures. 198,000 valid signatures were required for the Washington ballot in 2004, in effect requiring Eyman to secure nearly 230,000 to account for various anomalies.

Critics, such as Andrew Villeneuve of Permanent Defense, Steve Zemke of Taxpayers For Washington's Future, David Goldstein of, and Christian Sinderman, a Democratic campaign consultant, were eager to attribute Eyman's defeat to what they believed to be a shrinking base of supporters.

Slot machines:

In March 2004, Eyman unveiled Initiative 892, a proposal to allow "electronic scratch ticket machines", otherwise known as slot machines, beyond just Washington's tribal casinos.

Unlike prior initiatives, the financial and political backing for I-892 came from groups who would stand to benefit if the initiative passed, rather than from philosophically-allied voters. I-892 was quickly embraced by the entertainment and gambling industry, which provided all of its funding, and it subsequently earned a place on the ballot in July 2004.

Critics again organized a campaign against I-892 to fight the measure on the ballot. The campaign included groups such as Permanent Defense,, Taxpayers For Washington's Future, the Christian Coalition, Association of Washington Churches, and Futurewise.

Voters defeated I-892 with over 60% voting no on the initiative. It was a defeat for Eyman, who had predicted a victory. The defeat was considered by Eyman's critics to be a victory for communities and neighborhoods. Eyman claimed that he won a minor victory with the passage of a county charter amendment reducing the size of the King County Council. The initiative was sponsored by the county jail guards' union. Critics accused Eyman of using I-18 to promote himself - Eyman was a consultant to the sponsors of the measure.


After the November 2001 election, Eyman began work on his next initiative, Initiative 776, which he called the "son of 695."Its aim was to cut local car tabs fees which I-695 and the Legislature had failed to remove earlier. The local car tab fees funded regional transportation in four Washington counties, including Sound Transit, a multi-county transportation agency in the Puget Sound area.

Opponents complained that the initiative asked voters statewide to vote on an issue which only affected four counties. Opponents questioned the constitutionality of allowing voters across Washington to vote on fees they were not paying nor seeing the benefit of. But supporters feared that the fees would eventually be charged statewide.


For the 2001 ballot in Washington, Eyman focused on Washington I-747, which imposed a 1% cap on property tax growth in Washington.

I-747 passed despite well-funded opposition. Opponents argued that it passed because voters didn't realize that public services would actually be cut. Supporters said that those same services and costs were unnecessary and could not be justified.

Opponents then said that Eyman had received help from the Code Revisor's Office in drafting the initiative and sued to force disclosure of the work the code revisor did. They won that battle in May 2002. The initiative went into effect, as the public had voted, shortly after passing. On June 13, 2006, King County Judge Mary Roberts threw out the measure, arguing that "The voters were incorrectly led to believe they were voting to amend I-722. The voters were misled as to the nature and content of the law to be amended, and the effect of the amendment upon it. The (state) constitution forbids this."[9]


After I-695, Eyman formed a political committee known as Permanent Offense. He began working on Washington I-722, which was designed to cap property taxes at 2%. With the support of groups such as the state asphalt pavers' union, he also sponsored Washington I-745, which would have mandated that 90% of all transportation funding go to roads.

Unlike I-695, I-722 and I-745 were placed on the ballot largely through the use of paid signature gatherers. While there was some initial concern by his opponents, the courts in Washington have ruled that paid signature gathering is protected by the First Amendment.

I-722 and I-745 both appeared on the November 2000 ballot. I-722 passed, but I-745 was rejected. Political opponents contested I-722 in court, and it was overturned on the same grounds as I-695: that it was unconstitutional because it violated the single-subject rule.


In 1999, Eyman tried again, with [Washington Voter Approval for Tax Increases, Initiative 695 (1999)|Washington I-695]], which proposed replacing the old MVET with a flat $30 fee for yearly car registration fees, called "car tabs", while simultaneously requiring voter approval for any increases in any tax or fee increases at the state or local level. It was overwhelmingly supported by the public but opposed by state officials.

Enlisting a number of volunteers from different regions of the state, and working with fellow activists Monte Benham and Jack Fagan, Eyman succeeded in getting I-695 on the ballot, and it passed, despite opposition from a broad coalition—including some businesses, some labor groups, environmentalists, civic groups, and other organizations—who argued that the loss of revenue would wreak havoc on state government. Some major newspapers in Washington called for its rejection, and some cities, including officials in Seattle, passed resolutions opposing the initiative.

After I-695 was passed, opponents contested the initiative in court. The initiative was declared unconstitutional by the Washington Supreme Court on the grounds that it violated the state's single-subject rule. Fearing voter backlash, the Washington State Legislature, with the cooperation of then-Governor Gary Locke, quickly acted to maintain the lower car tabs.


"The Battles of Tim Eyman"

Eyman launched his first initiative, Washington I-200, in 1997. Its goal was to ban racial preferences (prohibit affirmative action) in state higher education and government hiring and contracting. At first, Eyman had difficulty collecting enough signatures to place the initiative on the ballot, so he sought help from local talk show host John Carlson. After Carlson took over, the initiative received enough signatures to earn placement on the ballot. In November of 1998, voters approved the initiative.

Return to politics

After a slow start, a last ditch plea for funds from direct-mail donors ensured that enough paid signature gatherers could be hired to get I-776 onto the ballot.

Eyman appeared in July 2002 as the chief spokesman for I-776. In November 2002, the initiative passed. Sound Transit had by then declared its local motor vehicle excise tax would not be affected because the tax was pledged to repay bonds.

Opponents challenged the initiative in court, and it was ruled unconstitutional in February 2003, using the same "two-subject rule" argument. The ruling was reversed by the Washington State Supreme Court in October 2003, putting I-776 into effect. While light rail eventually received federal funding, Eyman was successful in retaining local funds and taxes for other purposes.

Immediately following the 2002 election, Eyman announced his next initiative, Washington Initiative 807. I-807 would have required a supermajority for new taxes to be passed in the state Legislature. A lack of funding and mishaps cost the initiative its place on the ballot.

Opponents claimed that Eyman was taking credit for the efforts of Governor Gary Locke and Senator Dino Rossi, who had worked together for the goal of a no-new-taxes budget. The Legislature, however, raised the gas tax by five cents during the session. In the past, they had consistently opposed Eyman's measures to slash taxes.

Eyman quickly promised "revenge" for the raising of the gas tax, and soon announced his 2004 initiative, which would have slashed state property taxes--which exclusively funds education--by the same amount that the gas tax had been raised.

After I-807's failure, Eyman asked supporters to donate money to a personal compensation fund, which he called "Help Us Help Taxpayers."While he received no salary as promised during the initiative, he did ask for voluntary financial support after the effort.

Initiative 831

During the campaign to collect signatures for I-807, a Seattle computer programmer named David Goldstein launched an initiative to have Tim Eyman declared a "horse's ass."Mr. Goldstein declared that he was attempting to parody the initiative process to highlight its shortcomings and problems. After a brief period of support and funding by liberals, the initiative died in court after a challenge by the state's attorney general.


Like many ballot initiative activists, Eyman attracts both ardent support and ardent opposition. In Eyman's case, at least one group, Permanent Defense, is almost exclusively devoted to attacking Eyman.


Eyman was born in 1966. He was adopted as a baby by his parents, Don and Dolores Eyman of Yakima, Washington, who also had a biological son and daughter. The family lived in the West Valley neighborhood of Yakima.[10]

He graduated in 1988 from Washington State University in Business, where he was a member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity and was on the wrestling team. He married, adopted two sons, and moved to Seattle. He owns a small business in Mukilteo, Washington, selling fraternity and sorority-branded watches.


Tim Eyman sends out e-newsletters regularly to reporters and supporters. The e-newsletters historically start with the date followed by the opening line, "To: Our thousands of supporters throughout the state (cc'd to the media, house & senate members, and Governor)."

See also

External links

Additional reading


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