OLYMPIA – For the third time in three weeks, the state Senate voted to suspend a state law that requires a two-thirds majority for any tax increase.
The arguments from Republicans were the same: Amending a law passed by voters thwarts the will of the people and feeds into the public’s cynicism that Olympia doesn’t listen to them.
“The people are not happy with what they see happening down here,” Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, warned. “This is the catalyst that will be used to raise taxes.”
The rejoinders from Democrats in calling for temporary changes to Initiative 960 were more focused.
Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said Republicans didn’t seem to care about the will of the people when they proposed changes to a state initiative that tied raises in the minimum wage to the cost of living.
“I would call it a double standard to say the will of the people is respected in one case and not in another case,” she said.
Both sides have had plenty of practice. The Senate passed a version of the bill twice before, only to see their amended version change again in the House last week, and sent back for another round.
When Republicans complained this time about suspending some of the public notice provisions of I-960, Brown said Democrats also welcome the call for more sunshine in government. They’ll shine a light on tax exemptions – what some call loopholes – and make them compete for the right to remain in state law, just as education, health and social programs now have to compete for shrinking revenues.
“If you want to see sunshine, you’re going to get it,” she said.
Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said the Democrats’ plan wasn’t about closing loopholes, but about a wholesale tax increase, like a proposed near tripling of the toxic substance tax that could add 3 cents to a gallon of gasoline. Once again, they were making the move to suspend I-960 “in the dark of night,” he said.
But Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, said nothing was being concealed, and every vote the Legislature takes is public and easily obtainable. That includes the vote on changing I-960, she added: “It’s 10 after 7. It’s not like the state of Washington has gone to sleep at 7:10.”