Postman on Politics
Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.
July 22, 2008 3:08 PM
Posted by David Postman
Gov. Chris Gregoire has her first re-election TV commercial on the air. Gregoire uses the 30 second spot -- which the campaign calls "The News" -- to push her point that Washington state has been isolated from the economic problems plaguing the rest of the country. A male narrator opens the commercial:
In George Bush's Washington, the news isn't good.
But in our Washington, Governor Gregoire is helping the middle class fight back.
The first accomplishment touted in the spot is:
Local property taxes capped at 1 percent.
Can Gregoire properly claim credit for that? Well, sure, she signed a bill that did just that last year.
But the property tax cap was much more the work of Tim Eyman, the professional initiative manager so many Democrats love to hate. Gregoire and the Legislature only got to leave their fingerprints on it because after it was embraced by voters as Initiative 747, the tax cap was thrown out by the state Supreme Court. The court said that voters had been deceived into thinking the initiative would mean a smaller hit on the state treasury than it was.
voters had been told they would be reducing the tax-increase cap to 1 percent from 2 percent, although the initiative actually was reducing the cap from 6 percent to 1 percent.
An earlier Eyman initiative, I-722, had put a 2 percent limit on property-tax increases, but that was found unconstitutional months before voters approved I-747.
The court upheld a lower court ruling that said "voters were incorrectly told I-722 was being amended, but it was no longer law, so voters were asked to amend a non-existent law."
With that drafting error fixed, but no other changes made, Gregoire called the Legislature into special session last November and asked them to codify Eyman's initiative in law.
"This bill makes things exactly the way they were prior to the Supreme Court's decision," said Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, the bill's lead sponsor. "It does nothing more and it does nothing less."
The night that one-day session adjourned, I talked to Gregoire about how it appeared to me that she and the Democratic-controlled Legislature were doing Eyman's bidding. She strenuously disagreed.
And the fact of the matter is, this has nothing to do with Tim Eyman as far as I'm concerned. I think the voters said very clearly what they wanted. And he may have written something. But the fact of the matter is my motivation is what the voters had to say. And the voters said they're fearful about whether they're going to be able to keep their homes..
It's been implemented now for five years or more. It is, in fact, the way we've been doing business. So I don't think this is a rush to judgment by the Legislature. I think it is exactly what the voters want to have done
What I never understood was how re-implementing Eyman's initiative would do anything about voters' fears about losing homes. Gregoire said last year she repeatedly heard those fears during town hall meetings she held around the state. But those happened before the Supreme Court threw out I-747. So if people were worried about losing their homes, that was despite the 1 percent property tax limit that had been in place for five years.
At best, reinstating the initiative would stop those homeowners from being more afraid. But it couldn't have done anything to assuage fears heard at the town hall meetings.
In other campaign ad news:
I wrote yesterday about new ads from Evergreen Progress, the labor-backed PAC that is running TV ads against Gregoire's opponent, Republican Dino Rossi.
I pointed out that despite the ads' attacks on Rossi's education record, the teacher's union had said nice things about the budget he wrote in 2003. But I failed to mention that the same union, the Washington Education Association, later sued over the teacher pay plan drafted by Rossi. The union obviously didn't like the Rossi pay plan as much as I made it appear.
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