The vote tally is running in favor of Tim Eyman’s initiative to make lawmakers either accept a sales-tax cut or give voters a chance to amend the state constitution with a two-thirds legislative vote requirement for tax increases.
For the fourth time in the last decade, Washington voters were backing a Tim Eyman proposal aimed at making it harder for the Legislature to raise taxes.
Initiative 1366, which seeks a tax cut or tax-limiting constitutional amendment, led in statewide ballot returns Tuesday night, with 54 percent supporting the measure and 46 percent opposed.
The result came despite a state ethics investigation accusing Eyman of illegal profiteering on initiatives. Opponents also warned that I-1366 could punch a multibillion-dollar hole in the state budget.
Opponents vowed to fight I-1366 in the courts.
“We’re going to take steps to make sure this thing never has the opportunity to devastate education funding and human-services funding,” said Adam Glickman, a spokesman for I-1366 opponents.
Despite strong opposition in King County, I-1366 led by big margins in most of the state. Ballot-counting will continue in the days ahead.
I-1366 would cut the state sales tax by a penny unless the Legislature sends a constitutional amendment to the ballot calling for a two-thirds legislative vote — or a public vote — to impose any tax increases.
Voters have endorsed that two-thirds rule repeatedly, most recently in 2012’s Initiative 1185, which won 64 percent approval statewide.
But I-1366 used a more convoluted mechanism to push the two-thirds rule — one that opponents likened to blackmail.
Eyman said the changes to this year’s initiative were born of necessity.
In 2013, the state Supreme Court struck down I-1185, ruling its two-thirds tax-vote restriction unconstitutional. That left a constitutional amendment as the only way to restore the restriction.
Because constitutional amendments in Washington cannot be launched through a voter initiative, I-1366 sought to pressure the Legislature to do it.
If I-1366 passes but lawmakers refuse to submit the tax-limiting amendment for the 2016 ballot by April 15, the state’s sales-tax rate would be cut from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent.
That would slash state revenues by an estimated $8 billion over the next six years — at a time when lawmakers are facing a contempt order from the state Supreme Court to spend billions more on K-12 schools.
Eyman said I-1366’s provisions are needed to protect taxpayers from politicians’ “insatiable” appetite for higher taxes.
Hanging over the debate this fall were allegations that Eyman violated multiple campaign laws in shuffling money between two initiative campaigns in 2012. He has denied the charges.