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Debate over tax super-majority continues

 

OLYMPIA – A proposed constitutional amendment gave a Senate panel another chance to argue whether democracy is helped or hurt by requiring legislative super-majorities to approve tax increases.

Definitely helped, Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, the sponsor of the amendment, told the Ways and Means Committee. The requirement has been approved five times by voters through the initiative process, she noted, including last year. Spokane voters recently changed their charter to require a super-majority from their city council on taxes.

“It’s time for the people in the Legislature to match the people of the state,” Roach said, and began listing approval percentages for committee members.

Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Ed Murray, both Seattle Democrats, were quick to raise their hands to indicate their districts rejected that initative.

Definitely hurt, said Nick Federici of Our Economic Future Coalition, an umbrella group for progressive and liberal organizations. If it takes a two-thirds majority to pass a tax increase, that means a one-third minority can block one, he said.. . 

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OLYMPIA – A proposed constitutional amendment gave a Senate panel another chance to argue whether democracy is helped or hurt by requiring legislative super-majorities to approve tax increases.

Definitely helped, Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, the sponsor of the amendment, told the Ways and Means Committee. The requirement has been approved five times by voters through the initiative process, she noted, including last year. Spokane voters recently changed their charter to require a super-majority from their city council on taxes.

“It’s time for the people in the Legislature to match the people of the state,” Roach said, and began listing approval percentages for committee members.

Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Ed Murray, both Seattle Democrats, were quick to raise their hands to indicate their districts rejected that initative.

Definitely hurt, said Nick Federici of Our Economic Future Coalition, an umbrella group for progressive and liberal organizations. If it takes a two-thirds majority to pass a tax increase, that means a one-third minority can block one, he said.

When the Legislature suspends or repeals the super-majority, the voters reinstate it, even though opponents have a chance to convince them to vote it down, Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said: “Why not enshrine it in the constitution? It seems to be what the public wants.”

“Even things I like I don’t necessarily think should be enshrined in the constitution,” Federeci replied. Changing the constitution is much more difficult than changing a statute, he said.

And not everything the public likes at one point in history prove to be a good idea, Murray said.

Although voters gave Initiative 1185 an approval rating of about 64 percent last fall, a King County Superior Court judge has ruled a super-majority for taxes can’t be enacted by an initiative, only by a constitutional amendment. That decision has been appealed to the state Supreme Court, which is expected to rule soon.

Roach’s amendment needs only a simple majority to move out of the Republican-controlled Ways and Means Committee to have a chance at a vote by the full Senate. But it would need a two-thirds majority in the Senate, and the House, to go on the ballot this fall. If it gets that far, it needs only a simple majority by voters to be added to the constitution.


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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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