So some guy asks you to sign a petition to put a groovy progressive-sounding initiative on the ballot--save our state's open primary from the political-party duopoly. But before you're done signing, this very same guy reaches down to the stack on his dolly, and puts another petition in your face. This one advocates a regressive one-cent increase in the sales tax. "Yeah, let's see, I've got this one that saves schools... and I've got this one to lower your property taxes."

Loaded with prefab sound bites, these paid signature gatherers are peddling too many initiatives (and don't really care enough about the issues--hence the contradictory petitions from the same person) to really give you the lowdown. So, here's our guide to what's on the streets as the initiative campaigns make their final attempts to meet the July 2 deadline, when they need nearly 200,000 valid signatures to get on the November ballot.

Tim Eyman Two-Fer: I-864 and I-892

Tim Eyman, the Eddie Haskell of Washington State politics, is back with two controversial property-tax reduction initiatives. I-864, which would require a 25 percent rollback of most local property taxes--education and voter-approved levies are exempted--is classic Eyman. In other words, it's pretty lulu, and if it passes could have substantial impact on government services.

I-892 is more intriguing. In fact, it makes Eyman seem almost responsible in his doddering old age (though, when asked, he vehemently denies that he's matured). It is a revenue-neutral proposal that cuts state property taxes by what Eyman claims will be $400 million annually, through legalizing and taxing nontribal video slots. Every dollar raised from the tax would be earmarked to reducing property taxes. Opponents say that allowing a massive expansion of gaming would create a host of social problems; Eyman points out that the state has already signed off on a massive expansion of tribal gaming, and breaking the tribes' monopoly on video slots is a basic question of fairness.

Sales Tax for Education: I-884

This is the sales tax for education initiative, a bid to raise $1 billion annually for the state's underfunded educational system--encompassing a slew of improvements covering everything from pre-kindergarten to higher education--by means of a one-cent sales-tax increase. While most agree that our education system needs a shot in the arm, accomplishing that goal by relying on a regressive sales-tax increase is troubling.

The Primary System: I-872

The Washington State Grange--a 4-H-type group that, sadly, dropped its original moniker, the Patrons of Husbandry--is pushing this straightforward initiative to reform Washington State's primary elections. I-872 would allow voters to split their ticket by picking any candidate on the ballot: Rs, Ds, Greens, whatever. The top two vote getters in each race, regardless of party, would go through to the general election. It has a nice 10th-grade idealism to it, and it's the Grange's attempt to preserve aspects of the state's traditional "open" primary system that the courts ruled unconstitutional earlier this year. In that system voters could pick any candidate on the ballot, but only the top D and the top R (and any indie candidate with 1 percent of the vote) made it through.

The Grange intends to knock off the new primary system imposed by Gary Locke and the two parties that solidifies party power. In this system (coming in November) voters must choose one ballot, Democratic or Republican, and pick a candidate for each office from within party ranks. The top Ds and top Rs make it through in each race. (Indie parties get a bye in the primary, sending their chosen candidate for each office straight to the general.)

At last count, I-872 needed another 28,000 signatures. The campaign is using both volunteers and paid gatherers.

This teachers' union referendum to repeal the legislature's charter-school bill already qualified for this year's ballot. Most troubling to the union is the idea that under the Olympia bill, nonprofits can set up their own schools (funded by public money) and appoint their own school boards--scrapping any notion of fiscal accountability that elected school boards provide.

Anti-Transit Reactionaries: I-83

The anti-monorail crowd (funded largely by Hummer driver Fred Kettlewell and Second Avenue property owner Martin Selig, whose $9,000 worth of contributions make up nearly half the group's bank account) is now using paid signature gatherers in its so-called "grassroots" effort to kill the monorail through this citywide initiative. King County Superior Court forced the group to change its misleading ballot title last week, but the Hummer drivers get to keep the signatures they've collected so far. They need 18,000 by mid-July. However, their initiative may be illegal, in part because of a Washington State Court of Appeals decision on another initiative, I-80, which would have forced developers to restore creeks on their property. The court ruled that the creeks proposal exceeded the scope of the initiative process because, like I-83, it dealt with land-use regulations.,