Initiative activist Tim Eyman told the Highline Times that increasing fees on roll-your-own tobacco on new do-it-yourself machines cropping up in area smoke shops is indeed a tax increase on tobacco, and is therefore in violation of Initiative 1053, as this action was voted on by a simple majority. Two such shops will be affected, one in White Center, the other in Burien, called Natural Smokes LLC. Sen. Pam Roach (R-Auburn), 31st District, pictured right, supports his complaint.

Tim Eyman, initiative activist, weighs in on our roll-your-own tobacco story

Insists increased fees on smoke shops with self-rolling machines violates Initiatve 1053

Initiative activist Tim Eyman told the West Seattle Herald that increasing fees on roll-your-own tobacco on new do-it-yourself machines cropping up in area smoke shops is indeed a tax increase on tobacco, and is therefore in violation of Initiative 1053, a bill he co-sponsored that passed statewide in 2010 by 64-percent. We reported on such smoke shops in our recent story here. That initiative passed in every county in the state.

State tobacco taxes, 15 cents per cigarette, don't apply to those produced by these machines, and Olympia wants to collect, and will, beginning in July. They passed a law to collect these fees with a simple majority, not with the two-thirds majority required for a tax increase. Legislators, and Gov. Gregoire, who support the measure, say the fee is not a tax increase, but simply an action that closes a loophole for those who have found a way around paying their fair share with these automated machines to "manufacture" their own cigarettes.

These cigarettes cost $36.50 a carton locally will almost double, with an additional $31 fee tacked on, leaving the future of such shops in jeopardy.

"I don't care how other people define what a tax increase is," said Eyman. "The only thing that's relevant is the definition of raising taxes under Initiative 1053. What the voters, who passed this by 64 percent statewide wanted was, 'I don't care if you impose taxes on all of us or some of us. We want to make sure that if you ever raise taxes, here are the rules that you've got to follow.' Their argument is, by their definition this is not a tax increase. Fine, live in your fantasy world, but your definition isn't what the law is.

He continued, "The definition of 'raising taxes' is any action that increases state tax revenue, and this absolutely does. The Office of Financial Management (OFM) did a fiscal analysis of the bill and determined it would generate higher state revenue. This is money going to Olympia, to the general fund. This an action taken by the Legislature. So. yes of course. End of discussion. It is a tax increase.

"The state budget office (OFM) is mandated by law to examine every single bill introduced down in Olympia and if it involves a tax increase they must do a 10-year cost projection on that tax increase and send out an email alert to the voters saying there's been a bill introduced that's going to raise taxes, and here are the legislators sponsoring it, and so on," he said. "Every time the bill moves through the legislative process they have to send out another email. They did this. They sent out alerts. The state government has already determined it was a tax increase. For them to say now, 'Oh no. It's not a tax increase', it's too late."

Sen. Pam Roach

Eyman sites a letter written by Sen. Pam Roach (R-Auburn), 31st District, in complaint. She writes, "There was a tax increase imposed on roll-your-own cigarettes during this year's legislative session.  It was 3E2SHB 2565 (...) The definition of 'raises taxes' in Initiative 1053 is:  For the purposes of this chapter, 'raises taxes' means any action or combination of actions by the state legislature that increases state tax revenue deposited in any fund, budget, or account, regardless of whether the revenues are deposited into the general fund."

She continues, "The passage of bill was obviously an 'action ... by the state legislature.' Regardless of the merits of this tax increase (I voted against it), it is important that the Legislature be honest about the bills that it passes (they weren't in this case) and follow the rules the voters require (the Legislature didn't in this case).  I am very concerned that this violation of I-1053 (I was one of the initiative's co-sponsors) will only spur further I-1053 violations."

"This as an example of how sneaky, deceptive and underhanded the government is and how tax-lusting it is for money that they don't feel bound by normal laws and rules that apply to you and me," said Eyman."And so we use this as a way to say, 'Imagine how much more reckless they would be without Initiative 1053.' We need to pass a new initiative this year. We have to renew it every two years. We need to collect 300,000 signatures By July 6 for the new Initiative 1185. We call it the 'Son of Initiative 1053'. It is absolutely the same, without any added bells and whistles.

He said, "People may say, 'Well, it's only shafting a low number of these smokers. They're poor, dirty people, and shouldn't be protected anyway.' Olympia employs the age-old strategy of divide and conquer. The two-thirds majority vote unifies everybody. United we stand. Divided we fall. If they pick off one of us, they will eventually pick off all of us."

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