Tim Eyman has loaned $100,000 of his own money to his latest initiative to cut car-tab taxes, and pledged $400,000 more. Eyman hopes to be repaid through supporters’ donations, a strategy he has used before.

Share story

Tim Eyman, the anti-tax crusader and serial initiative-filer, is putting his own money behind his latest effort to cut car-tab taxes and cripple funding for Sound Transit.

Eyman has loaned $100,000 to his signature-gathering campaign to repeal Sound Transit’s car-tab taxes and replace them with a $30 flat fee.

He has also pledged an additional $400,000 loan to the campaign but has not yet handed over the money, according to his latest report to the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Alaska Airlines, CenturyLink, Kemper Development Co., NHL Seattle, PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and Seattle Children’s hospital. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.

Learn more about Traffic Lab » | Follow us on Twitter »

A similar $30 car-tabs initiative that Eyman led last year failed to collect enough signatures, a result that he attributed to lackluster fundraising that kept his campaign from hiring paid signature-gatherers.

This year’s Initiative 976 must collect about 260,000 signatures by the end of the year to be sent to the Legislature. If that happens, the Legislature could then approve the car-tab tax cuts as written in the initiative. If it declined to do so, the initiative would go to voters in November 2019.

Eyman said that the $100,000 loan (and the additional pledged $400,000) came from his and his wife’s retirement account.

“The expectation is to eventually be paid back,” Eyman said. “But at the end of the day, I’m putting the money on the line because I think there’s plenty of people that want to sign petitions.”

Sound Transit 3, which more than tripled car-tab taxes in the Puget Sound region, passed with about 54 percent of the vote in 2016, as voters chose to fund a massive expansion of public transit. But since then, voter umbrage over the increase and the way car-tab taxes are calculated has led the state Legislature to try to make changes.

Twice, both the state House and the state Senate have passed bills to change the inflated formula that Sound Transit uses to calculate car-tab taxes. But the two houses failed to agree on the legislation, and no changes have been made.

Eyman has twice previously gotten initiatives passed to cut car-tab taxes to $30.

One of those initiatives, approved by voters in 1999, was ruled unconstitutional but the Legislature enacted the change anyway. The other was passed in 2002 but the state Supreme Court said Sound Transit could continue to collect its tax because the agency had already sold bonds based on the rate.

In 2017, Eyman’s political committee, Voters Want More Choices, raised a little less than $160,000 for its failed attempt to cut car-tab taxes, via initiative to the Legislature.

About half of that total, $77,000, was paid to Eyman and the committee’s two other officers, Jack Fagan and Mike Fagan, as compensation. An additional $20,000 was rolled over to this year’s campaign.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson is suing Eyman, seeking $2.1 million, accusing him of enriching himself with money donated to his initiative campaigns.

Also named in Ferguson’s lawsuit is Citizen Solutions, a signature-gathering firm based in Lacey.

Voters Want More Choices hired Citizen Solutions last month to collect signatures, paying $100,000, according to the latest PDC report.

Ferguson’s lawsuit alleges that in 2012, Voters Want More Choices paid an inflated rate to Citizen Solutions to collect signatures and that Citizen Solutions then repaid Eyman personally more than $300,000.

Voters Want More Choices has raised about $162,000 this year, including Eyman’s $100,000 loan and the $20,000 from last year’s campaign.

Other major contributions include $10,000 from Suzie Burke, a major landlord and developer in Fremont; $10,000 from the political action committee of the Puget Sound Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association; and $5,000 from Andrew Skotdal, an Everett real estate developer.

This isn’t the first time Eyman has pitched his own money into one of his campaigns, with the intention of getting reimbursed.

In 2008, Eyman took a second mortgage on his house to loan $150,000 to his initiative campaign to open HOV lanes to all traffic. That measure lost at the ballot.

In 2015, Eyman again took a second mortgage to loan $250,000 to an initiative campaign to limit taxes, money that was eventually paid back. That initiative was thrown out by the state Supreme Court.

Eyman sent a fundraising letter to supporters on Monday asking them to help fund the initiative campaign and help him pay his legal bills in the Ferguson lawsuit.

“Please help me bring back our $30 tabs, stick it to Sound Transit and show Bob Ferguson his attacks have only inspired us to work even harder,” Eyman wrote.