Guest Opinion: Eyman eyes new challenges in 2018

2017 was a stinky year for Tim Eyman.

It ended with a thud in late December when he confessed to not collecting enough signatures to get onto the ballot a measure that would reduce car tab fees and kneecap Sound Transit.

By then it had already been a pretty lousy 12 months for Mukilteo’s purveyor of initiatives as he saw his causes foiled and his future ability to influence the state’s political class jeopardized.

It got bad fast in January when his Republican friends running the state Senate broke three major rules of the training manual drawn up by Eyman to gird their resistance to any new or higher taxes.

Without provocation, GOP senators proposed the largest-single increase in the state property tax rate since statehood to help fund public schools. Then they worked it out with Democrats to exempt this new rate from the 1 percent cap on future increases imposed on cities and counties. And finally they agreed to not put any of it on the ballot for voters to have a say.

Eyman had to be bowled over by their actions. But maybe because he’s still suffering effects of a political concussion — or maybe because he cut a deal with GOP leaders — Eyman’s never voiced discontent at what Republican legislators did.

The next bad turn came in March when Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Eyman, accusing him of secretly moving campaign funds between two initiatives in 2012 and receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from the firm that collected signatures for the measures.

Ferguson is seeking $2.1 million in penalties and wants to limit Eyman’s participation in electoral politics. Eyman insists he did nothing wrong. It’s not cheap defending himself and he’s asked supporters for money to help pay his legal fees. If there’s a silver lining it’s that the case won’t go to trial for months so Eyman can continue his political exploits as if nothing’s happened.

The summer found Eyman attempting, and failing, to get “B.S.” into the voter pamphlet.

He opposed the city of Mukilteo’s proposed sales tax hike to pay for transportation improvements. He wrote the opposition statement for the voter guide and included the word to describe the argument of the measure’s supporters.

Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel told him to take it out. He wouldn’t and appealed. Prosecutor Mark Roe backed Weikel and nixed the word. Eyman replaced it with Bolshevik and campaigned against the measure.

Alas, after all that, his neighbors rejected his arguments and approved the measure. Which leads us back to the late December announcement.

He had great confidence he could get the car tab reduction initiative in front of voters when he launched it in July. Instead, as critics point out, it is the fourth time in two years he whiffed at qualifying a measure for the ballot.

“We thought our timing was perfect,” Eyman wrote in his Dec. 28 email to supporters. “And as we know, Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Eyman blamed the failure on a lack of money to hire professional signature-gatherers to supplement the work of volunteers.

“We will learn from this experience and make sure to use those lessons in future efforts,” he wrote.

Then without hesitation or humility, Eyman asked supporters to send him a few bucks for a new undertaking with a completely new target in 2018.

“’We Don’t Want An Income Tax’ is gonna be one of the most important initiatives we’ve ever done,” he wrote. “We’ve been organizing for the initiative for weeks and will be able to hit the ground running in January.”

For benefactors of Tim Eyman, Happy New Year.

Reach Jerry Cornfield at 360-352-8623, jcornfield@heraldnet.com or on Twitter, @dospueblos.

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