Bill Sizemore, the anti-tax, anti-public employee union ballot measure specialist, has declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In his filing on April 9, Sizemore listed assets of $10,796 and liabilities of $21 million.
Those liabilities are the result of civil lawsuits the Oregon Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers won against him.
Sizemore, 61, was the Republican nominee for governor in 1998, losing to then-incumbent John Kitzhaber, 64 percent to 30 percent. But Sizemore's real impact came not from his candidacy but from his ballot measures.
A founder of the group Oregon Taxpayers United, Sizemore, who now lives in Redmond, wrote Measure 47, which passed in 1996 and reduced property taxes to 1995 levels and limited their increase to 3 percent per year. The measure also required a "double majority of voters" approve local tax measures. That meant that more than 50 percent of voters had to turn out and more than half of them had to vote yes.
Sizemore went on to put a variety of other measures on the ballot in subsequent years, on issues ranging from unions' abilities to raise money through payroll deductions to limiting insurance costs to merit pay for teachers. Although his measures were unsuccessful, he forced public employee unions to spend millions to defeat them.
The two major teachers' unions, OEA and AFT, originally sued Sizemore in 2000. The unions accused him of civil racketeering for campaign finance and signature gathering activities and won. Sizemore says his potential liability from those suits is about $1 million.
The other $20 million Sizemore now claims as a liability is what he says is potential liability from another lawsuit the unions filed against him for his activities around 2008 ballot measures. Sizemore says the unions are seeking compensation for $5 million they spent defeating his measures, and triple damages. That lawsuit has not yet gone to trial.
"This is a pre-emptive filing," Sizemore says. He previously declared bankruptcy in 1987.
In his filing Sizemore only lists a few other debts: he owes $6,900 on his daughter's vehicle; $10,500 to the Oregon Department of Revenue and $41,000 to the IRS.
He lists his job as "self-employed writer" and currently has no income. His wife, Cynthia, works as a teacher and earns $2,200 per month.