‘Backward’ billionaire initiatives foul Washington State’s November ballot
Courtesy of the office of Washington State Secretary of State

SEATTLE—Extremist Republicans have put six initiatives on the November ballot that if approved by Washington state voters would inflict a vicious blow to long-term elder care, public education, tax justice, and the struggle to reverse global climate change.

Bobby Stern reported the initiatives—and their backers—to the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action executive board, then advocated that PSARA join the strong grassroots coalition forming to defeat all six.

Prime among the sponsors is hedge fund millionaire Brian Heywood of Redmond, Wash. He poured $6 million of his own fortune into hiring a professional signature gathering company which paid two dollars for every signature it gathers to place the initiatives on the ballot.

The sponsor of all six initiatives is Jim Walsh, chair of the Washington State Republican Party. He calls them “Let’s Go Washington.”

Stern singled out Initiative 2124. It would eliminate long-term care, a measure PSARA worked tirelessly to push through the legislature in 2019.

The WA Cares Act will provide $36,000 for long-term care funded from a 58 cents withholding tax on every $100 of earnings. It is the first long-term care act in the nation. Initiative 2124 seeks to wreck the program by allowing employees to “opt out” of paying the tax, thus bankrupting the trust fund established to receive the revenue.

Initiative 2109 would repeal the state capital gains tax enacted in 2021. It has brought in nearly $1 billion annually in revenues earmarked for K-12 education including repair and construction of schools. The money has become a lifeline for Washington State’s cash-strapped public schools.

Statistics from the National Education Association show the state’s share of local school revenues was fifth nationwide (64.3%). The local share was 46th nationally, at 23.6% of all receipts.

The capital gains tax is levied on income above $250,000, collecting taxes from Washington State billionaires like Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates, and Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos—who’s so greedy he moved recently to Florida to escape the tax.

Lacking a graduated state income tax, the schools are dependent on regressive property taxes, levies and bond issues, and the state’s regressive sales tax.

Likewise, Initiative 2111 would prohibit Washington State from ever enacting an income tax of any kind and build in a permanent tax cut for the wealthy.

Initiative 2117 would repeal the Washington state “Climate Commitment Act” nullifying the state’s “cap and trade” system for reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2050. So far, the law has brought in $2 billion in gas tax revenues used to promote mass transit, and free bus fares for children and youth.

Initiative 2081 lets parents to withdraw their children from sex education. A sixth initiative lets police engage in high speed pursuits. The state outlawed such chases after repeated fatal accidents from them.

Aaron Ostrom, executive director of Seattle-based FUSE Washington, a large progressive grassroots organization, denounced all six measures pushed by “Let’s Go Washington” as a scheme to “go backward.”

“Backward Washington is a deceitful campaign to buy giant tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy. Their initiatives take direct aim at our kids and their schools, working families trying to afford childcare, seniors who benefit from long-term care and clean energy that tackles the growing climate crisis.”

Brian Heywood, Co-CEO of Taiyo Pacific Partners, L.P., an investment firm that concentrates on the Japanese and Pacific markets, describes himself as a “refugee” from California to escape taxes. Taiyo’s website describes the company as “A Pioneer of Friendly, Activist Investing” in Asia, all of it “tax free” if Initiative 2109 is approved.

Heywood donated millions to hire Brent Johnson, who controls Your Choice Petitions (YCP). Johnson was convicted of forgery and in years past was a sub-contractor of “Citizens Solution,” a paid-signature-gathering racket owned by the infamous Tim Eyman, convicted of theft from his own firm.

Heywood now claims a total of 2.4 million signatures have been collected on petitions for the six initiatives, at rates from $1.25 to two dollars per signature. All the money went to Roy Ruffins, an Eyman crony, the Cascadia Advocate, the newsletter of the Northwest Progressive Institute, reported.

Probably the signature-gatherers got pennies per name collected. Andrew Villenueva, the Advocate reporter who wrote the expose comments, “These are the sorts of shenanigans that go on in the murky world of paid signature gathering where cash is king and workers are often taken advantage of.”

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Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler has written over 10,000 news reports, exposés, op-eds, and commentaries in his half-century as a journalist for the Worker, Daily World, and People’s World. Tim also served as editor of the People’s Weekly World newspaper.  His book News for the 99% is a selection of his writings over the last 50 years representing a history of the nation and the world from a working-class point of view. After residing in Baltimore for many years, Tim now lives in Sequim, Wash.