OLYMPIA — Rarely, if ever, does The Associated Press preview of the Washington Legislature’s coming session morph into the theatrical made-for-video brawl common nowadays on the campaign trail and in the other Washington.
Like past years, Thursday morning’s question-and-answer session among state lawmakers, Gov. Jay Inslee and news reporters drew lots of discussion on policy.
Taxes. Spending. How to fix homelessness. How to deal with voters’ passage of Initiative 976, the car-tab-reduction measure passed in November, which is now in the hands of the courts.
In other words, a dry and dense Thursday morning — at least until Tim Eyman stood up and turned the discussion into a shouting match.
Eyman, the anti-tax activist, sponsor of I-976 and recently declared candidate for governor, interrupted Inslee’s session with reporters to ask about the initiative.
Eyman — who last year reached a settlement on charges he stole a $70 rolling chair from an Office Depot in Lacey — confronted Inslee.
He asked the governor whether the state is holding all the tax dollars above the new $30 tabs in an escrow account while the courts consider the lawsuits brought by local and county governments trying to block the initiative.
In response to I-976 and the legal challenge, Inslee has directed that the portion of car-tab fees that go to the state be held in escrow in case the courts determine that residents should get refunds. The state Department of Licensing has continued to collect and distribute the part of car-tab fees that go to local governments and Sound Transit, according to the governor’s office.
Inslee on Thursday refused to answer the escrow question, citing the press event. Eyman pursued. They talked over each other.
“You’re welcome to have a chair,” the governor said at one point, urging Eyman to sit back down.
“Is it a portion of the money, or is it all the money that’s above $30?” Eyman continued, adding later: “I’m asking a very simple question.”
Finally, the potential gubernatorial challenger — who said he would run as an independent but is now considering a run as a Republican — stopped his insurgency and left the front row.
Inslee apparently could not resist, telling Eyman: “Please leave the chair when you leave.”
Staff reporter Heidi Groover contributed to this report.