Make supermajority to raise taxes part of state constitution

The state high court struck down the law requiring a two-thirds tax vote as unconstitutional. That makes changing the constitution the best option


A majority of Washington state voters ­­— close to 64 percent in November — favor requiring approval of two-thirds of the Legislature to raise taxes. So, too, do we.

The will of the voters should be followed, and the people have approved initiatives that impose the two-third majority four separate times.

Yet, laws imposed by initiative (or the Legislature) never trump the state constitution. That’s a fact.

Thursday the state Supreme Court ruled requiring a two-thirds supermajority vote to raise taxes is unconstitutional. Justices, in a 6-3 ruling, said a constitutional amendment is necessary to place a restriction on legislative votes beyond the simple majority called for in the constitution.

Former Attorney General Rob McKenna, who argued for the two-thirds majority on behalf of citizens before the Supreme Court, contended the two-thirds majority was not unconstitutional because the simple majority mentioned in the constitution is only the minimum for approval, not the maximum. It was a sound argument.

But the majority of justices did not agree.

“The plain language, constitutional history, and weight of persuasive authority support reading this provision as setting both a minimum and a maximum voting requirement,” Justice Susan Owens wrote in the majority opinion.

A ruling has been made — it’s time to move on. The constitution needs to be amended to require the two-thirds majority.

Just hours after the high court ruling, a state Senate committee took the first step in the process. The Republican-dominated Senate Ways and Means Committee voted 13-10 to seek a constitutional change.

It won’t be easy to change the constitution.

The threshold to change the state constitution is significantly higher than approving a law as it requires a two-thirds majority of both houses of the Legislature as well as approval by the people. Getting the people’s support will be easier than gaining two-thirds majority in the House or Senate. Republicans favor the change while Democrats oppose it, and neither party holds supermajority control.

Don’t expect a constitutional amendment to gain any traction in

Olympia this year or next.

Still, the strong support among voters for a supermajority to raise taxes — as well as a prevailing public sentiment tax increases could stall an economic recovery — it’s going to be tough to get a major tax increase approved.

Legislators are elected officials who serve at the pleasure of the people.



Iopine says...

Good luck on getting the Western elitist Progressives to approve this is slim and none. I believe it should be a majority but I'll bet we won't see it in this lifetime.

Posted 1 March 2013, 6:21 p.m. Suggest removal

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