The Washington State Supreme Court struck down the law enacted by Tim Eyman sponsored Initiative 1053 that required a two-thirds supermajority vote of the Legislature to pass any tax increase on February 28, 2013.
The Court decided that the requirement was unconstitutional with the majority opinion stating that the framers of the state constitution were concerned that a two-thirds supermajority vote for “ordinary legislation” opened up the possibility for a “tyranny of the minority” and that they “feared ‘special interests might capture or corrupt public institutions.’”
Unfortunately, that ruling has not put to rest the possibility that the state Legislature will have to contend with a two-thirds supermajority vote on tax increases in the future. On January 18, 2013, State Senator Pam Roach, R-Auburn, introduced SJR-8025 a joint resolution to amend the state constitution to require a two-thirds majority to pass tax increases. The bill has already made it through two committees and has been passed to the Rules Committee for a second reading on March 1, 2013. The next step would be for the full Senate to vote on the resolution, which could happen at any time.
It is notable that this bill was introduced prior to the Supreme Court ruling. This seems to indicate that the sponsors believed that the two-thirds requirement in I-1053 would be struck down and wanted to have their bill already in motion so it could be voted on during the current legislative session.
If the two-thirds requirement is eventually approved it would cause great difficulties for the state Legislature to ensure all the needed programs in the state are adequately funded. For example, it is widely acknowledged that the transportation infrastructure in Washington is inadequate. The Connecting Washington transportation package currently in the state Legislature would raise the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon over the next 10 years to help address the issue. A two-thirds requirement to pass the legislation would make it almost impossible to do and our roads and bridges will continue to degrade hurting commerce and potentially putting lives at risk.
No one likes to pay taxes, but they are necessary to pay for services and infrastructure that allow the state to function and residents to safely go about their everyday lives. The citizens of Washington already have a mechanism to keep unwanted taxes from being passed by the state Legislature, elections. Once representatives are elected they will only keep their jobs if they serve the people who elected them or they are replaced. Requiring a two-thirds majority to allow the elected representatives to raise funds for needed projects could allow what the framers of the state constitution called a “tyranny of the minority.”
If you are against the two-thirds constitutional amendment contact your state senator and representatives. You can call the Washington State Legislative Hotline at 1.800.562.6000 to voice your opinion on this or any other issue.
Also, progressive non-profit Fuse Washington has organized a campaign against the amendment. You can sign on to support them a their web site.