Next Steps for the Voter Approved, but Court Tossed 2/3 for Taxes Requirement
By JASON MERCIER
Although in a 6-3 ruling the Court has removed this policy question directly from the voters, it made clear that:
“Our holding is not a judgment on the wisdom of requiring a supermajority for passage of tax legislation. Such judgment is left to the legislative branch of our government. Should the people and the legislature still wish to require a supermajority vote, they should do so through a constitutional amendment.”
(Thursday night) the Senate Ways and Means Committee continued the journey of SJR 8205 to do just this approving the proposed constitutional amendment queuing it up for consideration by the full Senate.
With Republicans in the Legislature on the record in support of letting the people be the final arbiters of the fate of the 2/3 for taxes requirement, the question remains on if legislative Democrats also believe the people should have this opportunity.
Though not on a constitutional amendment, there is precedent in the Legislature for Democrats supporting the 2/3 for taxes requirement as reflected by their vote on SB 6896 in 2006. An amendment was adopted on that bill that re-instated the 2/3-vote requirement from its temporary suspension a year early.
The amendment was approved unanimously on a voice vote. Speaking on behalf of the Democrats, then Sen. Mark Doumit said on the floor, "We gratefully accept this amendment."
Fast forward to this session and Rep. Hurst (D-31), Sen. Sheldon (D-35) and the Senate Coalition Caucus leader Sen. Tom (D-48) have already gone on the record in support of sending the voters a constitutional amendment.
Judging solely from the legislative district breakdown for the vote on I-1185 last November, here are the other potential Democrat supporters of a constitutional amendment, assuming of course they believe their district voters that approved I-1185 should have the final say:
For the past 20 years the voters have consistently made clear they want their lawmakers to reach a broad consensus on the need to raise taxes or include the voters directly on the decision. Although the Supreme Court invalidated this taxpayer protection its ruling did not negate the fact that on five separate occasions the voters have demanded this requirement, most recently with statewide passage of I-1185 with a 64% vote and approval in 44 of the state’s 49 legislative districts.
With voters and lawmakers repeatedly enacting the supermajority vote for taxes requirement over the past 20 years, what could be more representative of the public will than allowing a vote of the people on a constitutional amendment such as SJR 8205 to help resolve this debate once and for all?
There is nothing for lawmakers to fear by sending SJR 8205 to the voters but the will of the people.
Editor’s Note: Jason Mercier is director of the Center for Government Reform with the Washington Policy Center (Olympia office).