Tax amendment moves forward
Simple majority of voters can approve supermajority requirement
By STEVE BROWN
OLYMPIA -- The Washington State Supreme Court rejected the so-called "supermajority" vote requirement to raise taxes, but legislators quickly started the process toward a new constitutional amendment reinstating it.
If the Legislature approves Senate Joint Resolution 8205, the measure will appear on the November ballot. Brian Zylstra, deputy communications director at the Secretary of State's office, said a simple majority of voters is all that is required to approve it.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved the resolution, which proposes a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds legislative vote to raise taxes. It is now before the Senate Rules Committee, which has until March 13 to decide whether to submit the measure to the full Senate.
Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said the amendment would address the court's concerns and implement a two-thirds majority on tax votes.
"Washington voters have repeatedly said that they want to see this basic taxpayer protection kept in place, and they want it to be harder -- not easier -- for their taxes to be raised," he said. "The only option that now remains for them is to amend the state constitution and put this issue to bed once and for all."
Starting in 1993, four voter-approved ballot initiatives have forbidden tax increases without either two-thirds supermajorities from both the House and Senate or a public vote.
Supreme Court Justice Susan Owens, writing Feb. 28 for the 6-3 majority, said the supermajority requirement is unconstitutional because it "substantially alters our system of government, thus enabling a tyranny of the minority."
The court's majority ruled that any such requirements must be a part of the state constitution.
The Washington Farm Bureau issued a release calling the court's ruling "an act of brazen legislating from the bench. ... We are deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to override policies of fiscal restraint proven popular in almost every part of this state."