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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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Lawsuit challenges supermajority for taxes

OLYMPIA – A coalition of House Democrats and education advocates are asking the courts to void the supermajority required for tax increases, arguing that it’s an unconstitutional limit on legislative authority.
State Republicans and the sponsor of initiatives that have repeatedly resulted in voters imposing that two-thirds majority quickly denounced the lawsuit as ignoring the will of the voters.
Tim Eyman, who had another such initiative certified Monday for this November’s ballot, said the suit could boost that measure. It could also provide campaign fodder for Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, who as state attorney general will have the task of defending the supermajority requirement in the courts.
“This is going to bode well for us,” Eyman said of Initiative 1125. “It’s an extraordinary gift they’ve given to the McKenna campaign.”

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I-960 hearing: Look what’s on the chopping block

OLYMPIA — Seth Dawson, a representative of human service organizations, urged the Legislature to temporarily suspend Initiative 960’s requirements for super-majority support for tax increases.

“There’s nothing pretty about amending this initiative…, There’s nothing pretty about enacting these cuts,” Dawson said.

“I don’t envy your position. The best choice at this point is to proceed with this measure,” Dawson, whose clients include the Coalition for the Homeless, said.

Suppose more revenue comes in Sen. Linda Parlette said. AT some point aren’t we still going to have to reduce spending?

“Probably,” said Dawson.

The state cut spending last year, Sen. Karen Fraser said. It can’t just keep cutting.

“It’s time to look at a system of new revenues,” Dawson said. Mental health was cut last year, now it’s asked to take more.