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I-722 struck down

"No one was very surprised when a Thurston County judge ruled last Friday that Initiative 722 was unconstitutional, likely sending it on to the state Supreme Court for a repeat of last year's Initiative 695 court battle.But the city of Oak Harbor, which would have lost $1.3 million if I-722 was upheld, is already bracing for yet another tax-cutting initiative from Mukilteo businessman Tim Eyman.City Mayor Patty Cohen said that the city's legal advisors were right on the money in predicting that I-722 would be struck down. Even so, she has led the city in some pretty severe budget cutting, including a round of lay-offs, in the last six months and plans to continue in the same cost-whittling mode.Instead of sitting around and waiting for Tim (Eyman) to happen to us, she said, we need to be more pro-active in this and start planning ahead of time.I-722, which was passed by voters last November, would roll back any tax and fee increases adopted by state and local government between July 2, 1999, and Dec. 31, 1999. Property tax levy increases would be limited to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. The increase in value of property would also be capped at inflation or 2 percent.City Attorney Phil Bleyhl said I-722 was found to be unconstitutional for several reasons. The judge found that it contain several subjects, causes an uneven level of taxing and amounts to a gift of public property by forcing government to give back tax money - all of which are not allowed under the state's constitution.Eyman's first tax-cutting initiative, I-695, was declared to be unconstitutional for similar reasons by both the Supreme Court and a lower court.The city joined with other cities in the third lawsuit brought against I-722 last year and successfully received a preliminary injunction. But Cohen said the city will not be involved in arguments before the Supreme Court.While legal experts predict that I-722 will lose at the Supreme Court level, Eyman is not giving up. He has already written a new tax-cutting proposal, Initiative 747, which he plans to get on the ballot this November.According to Eyman's Web site, permanent-offense.org, he has fixed the legal and constitutional problems by drafting I-747 in a simplified manner. I-747 proposes to limit property tax increases to 1 percent per year unless approved by the voters. "

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