This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.
If recent history is any guide, Washingtonians in November will elect a slew of liberal Democrats to the Legislature, most with hopes of spending more on education, health care and social services.
At the same time, voters will enact a measure – Initiative 1185 – that will effectively prevent those Democrats from raising more revenue to pay for those hopes. I-1185 would require a two-thirds majority in the Legislature for new taxes unless they are approved by a vote of the people.
Welcome to Washington, where a big schizoid chunk of the electorate seems to want a generous state government – without spending another nickel on it.
For the record, we’ll recite our customary objections to supermajority requirements.
Washington has a representative system of government. Lawmakers are supposed to make policy decisions on a democratic basis; if voters don’t like the decisions, they are free to remove the lawmakers come election day.
A two-thirds majority requirement is inherently undemocratic. It effectively gives opponents of a tax proposal twice the voting power as its supporters. The citizens behind the opposition get twice the political power as those who favor the tax.
Obviously, we oppose I-1185 – not that we expect it to fail.
In an electorate less conflicted than Washington’s, anti-tax forces wouldn’t need initiatives; they’d simply elect a majority of like-minded lawmakers. Here, though, many anti-taxers vote for Democrats – while also voting to keep them barking in the yard on chain leashes.
Tim Eyman takes this political conundrum to the bank.
Eyman makes his living ginning up initiatives, including I-1185. He and his partners sponsored the last two of the four supermajority initiatives Washingtonians have passed since 1993.
He notes out that the Legislature – those tax-loving Democrats! – can easily revise or repeal an initiative two years after its passage. Hence the urgency of recycling the measure on a regular basis.
We’d complain, except that the perpetual supermajority project keeps Eyman away from another of his perennial causes – trying to micromanage Washington’s highways with initiatives that target congestion-relief measures. Fortunately for drivers, he tends to lose those campaigns.
This year, I-1185 again promises no new taxes. And some brave candidates are saying the state must spend $1 billion more on public schools and on Medicaid and on the environment, etc.
Plenty of voters will buy both pitches.