Redmond man behind 6 ballot initiatives ready to take on state government

Whether you agree or disagree with the six high-profile initiatives on the November ballot, the man behind them is a force to recognize.

Brian Heywood is a hedge fund manager and a part-time farmer. 

"I took something that was wild and made it into something beautiful," Heywood said.

Heywood gave us a tour of his 45-acre Redmond farm where he grows his own hay for the horses they board. He also makes apple cider and honey. 

Off to one side, we have manure sitting under a sign that reads ‘Cowboy Gold.’

"Manure has to get a certain heat," Heywood said.

He could go on and on about the science behind manure, leading to his joke that he calls it his legislative session. That joke might be lost on you if you didn’t know that Heywood is behind six separate initiatives on the November ballot, in part trying to repeal several laws passed in recent years by the Democrat-controlled legislature.

"Olympia sort of seems like it was losing touch with the common person," Heywood said.

But, Heywood is no common person himself.

Harvard-educated, wealthy, a world traveler and bilingual — he is a conservative and libertarian who strongly believes in the free market. He says he was also heavily influenced by an Arizona childhood.

"I grew up very poor, you don’t realize you’re poor, kind of, as you’re growing up you don’t realize, and suddenly you do," Heywood said.

From poverty to now spending $6 million of his own money to organize and collect 2.6 million signatures for all the initiatives that have qualified for the ballot. FOX 13 News asked Heywood why a multimillionaire wanted to take on the public fight that has made him a target.

"It’s because it’s what I said before: who is going to fight for it? No one is making the fight," Heywood said.

The six ballot initiatives on the November ballot:

  • I-2111 a ban on an income tax
  • I-2113 removing restrictions on police pursuits
  • I-2081 giving parents more rights to review educational materials and receive certain notifications
  • I-2124 allowing people to opt out of the state’s long term care coverage plan
  • I-2109 canceling the state’s 7% capital gains tax.
  • I-2117 and repealing the Climate Commitment Act

Heywood blames the cap-and-trade program under the Climate Commitment Act for raising gas, groceries and utility prices while doing little to get rid of carbon emissions.

"The cap-and-trade is probably the most regressive tax you could put on the economy. It impacts every single person who has to commute to work," Heywood said.

For some time last year, Washington gas prices skyrocketed to the highest in the entire country. It has since come down, and supporters of cap-and-trade say fuel prices are impacted by various factors. They believe the fight against carbon emissions is well worth it for the environment.

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"Absolutely, but if you compare to any other state, we are still on the West Coast, huge transportation advantages that other states don’t have, yet our cost is higher, compared to other states, we are enormously more expensive," Heywood said.

Despite the narrative, Heywood says his initiatives are not a Republican-versus-Democrat issue.

"Our model suggests that 57% of people that signed were Democrat or Independent and 43% were Republican. This is not a Republican screed," Heywood said.

He calls it a common sense pushback.

"Against what I believe were some stupid, overly aggressive, radical progressive policies," Heywood said.

Heywood says not allowing police to pursue suspects in many cases is one example of going too far.

"Police pursuit overwhelmingly polls on both sides. People think it’s stupid that police have to sit there and watch a car get stolen and drive off, they can’t do anything about it," Heywood said.

READ: Police Guild: Patrol officers staged 'sick-out' during Seattle's busiest weekend

As for the capital gains tax, Heywood sees it as just the beginning to an income tax.

"There is all this speculation, ‘Oh, he’s a hedge fund guy, so he’s only doing it for the capital gains tax,’" Heywood said.

When pressed on the issue, Heywood emphasized that it’s not for personal gain. If it was, he claimed it would be easier to just pick up and move out of state.

"I can go to Florida and buy a $7 million house, have no income tax like Jeff Bezos, right, I can do that easily. From a business point of view, it makes no sense for me to do it this way. 
I am much more worried about the economy of Washington," Heywood said.

That economy is also what some lawmakers say will be negatively impacted if Heywood succeeds. It will wipe away billions of extra dollars down the road for the state.

"We’ve had $19 billion in surpluses over the last five years. $19 billion dollars, and never were they able to find the willpower to spend it on these things that, all of a sudden, are going to crash the economy. It’s a bunch of Chicken Littles crying for something. They just have a big money pot that came in this year, way more than expected, they are trying to find ways to spend it," Heywood said.

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Heywood's Let’s Go Washington PAC is confident the initiatives will pass, especially the repeal of the Climate Commitment Act. It’s an opinion many would disagree with.

But whether he's right, his efforts are already creating waves in the legislature. Democrats are refusing to discuss three of the ballot initiatives, including the Climate Commitment Act, but they have agreed to debate the three other initiatives. 

They include the income tax ban, which was discussed in committee on Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday, lawmakers will discuss police pursuits and parental rights.

Lawmakers have a couple of choices. They can adopt Heywood’s measures or come up with competing measures to go on the November ballot.

The other three ballot initiatives not talked about will automatically appear on the ballot.