No appeal planned over I-717 petitions
Seattle Times staff reporter
Backers of a property-tax-reduction initiative who were denied permission to file signatures minutes after the 5 p.m. Friday deadline said yesterday that they will not file a court appeal.
"I do feel responsible," said Initiative 717 campaign manager Tim Nank, who delivered the petitions minutes late Friday after a mad dash from his Bellevue office to Olympia. "I feel really bad for all the people who spent time and effort to do this."
The 31-year-old campaign manager said he was counting petitions until about 3:05 p.m., when he headed for Olympia. Gridlock on Interstate 5 made the 60-mile trip take much longer than he had anticipated.
Nank spent the weekend pondering the fate of the estimated 200,000 signatures that sat sealed in the Secretary of State's Office. Yesterday, Nank got his answer.
I-717 backers reviewed copies of the petitions and found they probably only had slightly more than 165,000 valid signatures from registered voters, roughly 15,000 short of the total needed. A minimum of 179,248 are needed to qualify for the November ballot.
Because of the close call on signatures - and because similar court appeals have a history of being rejected - Nank and the other I-717 backers, including the state Republican Party, decided to give up their campaign.
"I am disappointed because we worked so hard at it," said Gerald Schaefer, a retired property-tax manager who sponsored the measure. "But the simple fact that we have had some dialogue about property-tax reform has been satisfying to me."
The initiative sought to reduce the 2001 state property tax by 15 percent and to gradually eliminate the tax. The revenues would have been replaced by dipping into the state's emergency-reserve fund. The measure also would limit local increases in the property tax to the inflation rate, except with voter approval.
Officials at the Secretary of State's Office said they were ready to defend the rejection had an appeal been filed. Gary McIntosh, elections director, said he felt sure that Secretary of State Ralph Munro's decision to be a stickler on the deadline was the right one.
"The law is not exactly vague on this issue. It says the initiative must be filed before the end of the business day, and it wasn't," McIntosh said. "I think the statute is not one that is really open to interpretation."
Nank was hired in February by the Madison Group, a political-consulting group based in Bellevue. Previously, he had worked with the Washington Institute Foundation. Despite missing Friday's deadline, Nank said he hoped his job with the Madison Group was secure.
"I think I'm fairly safe," he said. "I certainly won't make the same mistake twice."
Nank said the group is planning to resubmit the measure as an initiative to the Legislature in December. If so, he must start over and gather the same number of signatures. The deadline to submit is 5 p.m. Dec. 29.
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