Saturday, July 30, 2011
Do Washington voters want to limit the state Legislature's ability to raise taxes?
Absolutely. On four separate occasions voters have approved ballot measures mandating lawmakers obtain a two-thirds majority to approve tax increases.
Yet, a lawsuit challenging the two-thirds requirement was filed on Monday in King County by several House Democrats and the League of Education Voters.
This lawsuit has been greeted with scorn by those who find it contemptible to challenge the will of the voters.
The issue now before the court is not whether voters want to limit the Legislature's power. They clearly do. The issue is whether the Legislature's power, as spelled out in the constitution, can be limited by passage of an initiative.
We endorsed Initiative 1053, the initiative in question. We believe, given the Great Recession, that raising taxes should be the last resort to balance the state budget. In addition, we have grown tired of lawmakers usurping the will of the people with their legislative smoke-and-mirror tricks.
Nevertheless, the constitution is the framework for government. It is for that reason that constitutions, whether at the state or federal level, require a higher threshold for being changed than laws. In Washington state, for example, it takes action by legislators and a vote of the people to change the state constitution.
The reason for this is simple. Constitutions should not be constantly changed by shifts in the political winds.
Everyone, including lawmakers, has the right to challenge constitutionality of laws made through initiatives or through the legislative process.
Let's have this matter settled once and for all. No longer will the public have to endure the constant carping - on both sides - about the two-thirds majority requirement.
If, after the legal process unfolds, I-1053 is ruled constitutional lawmakers must stop wasting energy and time carping about the two-thirds requirement and accept the law that governs the process for raising taxes.
But if it goes the other way, backers of the two-thirds majority should not waste their time with another initiative. They need to confront their new reality and take the necessary steps to change the constitution.
This lawsuit isn't an affront to voters, it's simply a valid way to determine if the framework for government - the constitution - is being followed.