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

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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.

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Comments

namvet60 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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