Reps. weigh in on Supreme Court tax ruling
By SAMANTHA PAK
Redmond Reporter Reporter
March 8, 2013 · Updated 1:31 PM
Last week, the Washington State Supreme Court struck down the five-time voter-approved requirement that tax increases must receive a two-thirds vote of the legislature.
The issue was first brought to voters in 1993 and in its 6-3 ruling, the court’s majority opinion said, “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, not through legislation.”
Currently, there is a bill going through the state Senate proposing to do just that. SJR 8205 proposes a constitutional amendment to make the two-thirds vote rule a reality.
Rep. Roger Goodman (45th Legislative District, Kirkland) said the bill is still in the Senate and they have to wait and see if it will even make it to the state House of Representatives.
Goodman said a supermajority is a violation of the American democratic system of one vote for one body, adding that the supermajority is also against Washington’s Constitution and he doesn’t feel comfortable amending the state’s founding document.
Rep. Ross Hunter (48th Legislative District, Medina) also sees no need to amend the state constitution.
“Almost 125 years ago (in 1889) the framers of our state constitution met to hammer out the basic working structure of how Washington would be governed,” he wrote in his blog. “They based their work on a document exactly 100 years old at the time, the U.S. Constitution. The framers of the U.S. document spent months working through voting requirements and balance of power issues and came out with a document that has really worked well for the entire life of our great country. The Washington document looks very similar in key measures, and voting requirements are one of those.”
In addition, Goodman said if a supermajority is required for tax legislation, more questions will be raised about whether this should be required for legislation related to business, public transportation, voter registration and other issues.
He also said a supermajority gives one-sixth of the state legislature (one-third of either house) the power to block any legislation and they wouldn’t get anything done.
“Supermajorities can grind government to a halt,” he said.
“Supermajority requirements allow special interests to buy off small numbers of legislators and block action by the ‘respectable majority,’” his blog states.
Goodman said this is especially important as the state needs to come up with about $1.4 billion to fund K-12 education as a result of the State Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling that the state must properly fund education. To come up with the money, Goodman said there will probably be proposals with tax increases and a supermajority requirement would make it difficult for anything to pass.
The Washington State PTA opposed the supermajority requirement for this reason as it creates barriers to funding that kids need.
“The association welcomes the State Supreme Court ruling this week that strikes down the two-thirds majority requirement for revenue increases,” states a press release issued by the association. “This ruling gives policymakers the flexibility they need to make practical and balanced choices for children.”Contact Redmond Reporter Reporter Samantha Pak at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-867-0353, ext. 5052.