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Initiative 747 wins approval in a rout

Against a backdrop of anti-property tax sentiment, nearly 59 percent of the Kitsap voters who turned out at the polls Tuesday night approved Initiative 747 — the third resounding win in as many years for the initiative’s author, Mukilteo businessman Tim Eyman.

Statewide, the election results for I-747 are much the same, with roughly two-thirds of the voters approving the property-tax cap measure as of Wednesday.

Kitsap County Elections Division and state officials say their ballot results will be certified by Nov. 21. County Auditor Karen Flynn said the margin of approval for the Eyman-sponsored initiative is great enough to virtually guarantee its victory.

I-747 limits annual property tax increases to 1 percent among governmental jurisdictions, unless a vote of the people approves otherwise.

Before the measure passed, state property tax collection increases were limited to no more than 2 percent, while cities, counties and other local taxing districts could increase property tax collections by up to 6 percent with a supermajority vote of the governing body.

“The thing that makes this victory particularly sweet is that the opponents of the measure spent something like $1.7 million opposing it,” said Eyman. “On the other hand, we spent zero dollars on radio ads and we didn’t put up any campaign signs. We basically relied on voter common sense.”

Eyman said he was particularly offended, in light of the nation’s recent tragedy on the East Coast, by the opposition’s assertion that the measure would risk firefighter lives and place fire districts in jeopardy.

On the contrary, said Eyman, any time firefighters ask voters to help them generate revenue for equipment or more personnel, taxpayers traditionally have been willing to approve a tax increase.

“Firefighters can get money because they can make the case that they’ve exhausted every other option,” said Eyman. “I can’t wait for the state, county and other jurisdictions to have to make the same case for voters.”

Buoyed by the success of this intiative, Eyman hinted he could be coming out with a new measure soon.

“It might have something to do with taxes,” Eyman joked.

Meanwhile, Kitsap County officials, already in the throes of 2002 budget talks, say they had already prepared for a 1 percent annual property tax increase cap. That means revenue assumptions for the county won’t change because of the measure’s approval.

The remaining two initiatives appearing on the ballot statewide also passed handily, with the results of two proposed amendments to the state constitution split. The results are as follows:

• I-773 was approved by both Kitsap voters and those statewide by nearly 64 percent. The measure will levy an additional flat, 60-cent tax on every standard pack of cigarettes and an additional 55 percent surcharge on the wholesale price of other tobacco products, including chewing tobacco and cigars. Revenues generated are intended to pay for existing programs while expanding state health care coverage to qualified low-income residents.

• I-775 won strong approval by both Kitsap and voters statewide by about 64 percent. The measure would organize in-home care givers under a governor-appointed, nine-member state authority in order to establish quality controls and recruiting plans.

• House Joint Resolution 4202 was rejected by Kitsap County voters ad voters statewide, with about 58 percent saying no to the measure. Had it been approved, the resolution would have amended the state Constitution to allow the Legislature and the State Investment Board more discretion when investing public trust funds.

• Senate Joint Resolution 8208 was overwhelmingly approved by Kitsap County voters and voters statewide, with a 70 percent approval rating. The resolution will amend the state constitution to expand the use of temporary judges in superior courts across the state. It’s widely believed the measure will help larger counties, where superior court calenders are typically filled to overflowing.

The idea behind the measure is to unclog congested court dockets by allowing superior court judges to import another elected judge, already serving in another jurisdiction, for temporary assignment.

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