Inside Opinion

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Tag: Initiative 1053


Legislature decides taxes; voters decide Legislature

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Washington does three kinds of democracy: direct, representative and constitutional. Direct democracy came up short in Thursday’s state Supreme Court ruling on taxes; the other two came out ahead.

Several times since 1993, voters have approved initiatives that require a two-thirds supermajority in the Legislature to approve new taxes without a vote of the people. Nearly 64 percent of the electorate went for the last two initiatives, in 2012 and 2010. The 2012 version, I-1185, carried with nearly 1.9 million votes.

This is a partisan issue in the Legislature, where most Democrats want the latitude to collect more taxes for education, social services and public payrolls. Among Washington Republicans, opposition to taxes appears to have become the only unifying principle.

Things don’t break down so neatly in the electorate itself. Washington doesn’t have 1.9 million Republicans. Most independents, presumably, and a lot of Democrats have been voting for those supermajority initiatives. Washingtonians seem quite content to elect Democrats majorities to the House and Senate; they just don’t want to give them any spending money.

Washingtonians won’t be able to have it both ways under the high court’s 6-3 ruling.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Susan Owens, argued that the framers of the Washington Constitution knew what they were doing when they required supermajorities for some decisions – such as overriding a governor’s veto – but simple majorities for others.

If you take the logic of extra-constitutional supermajorities far enough, a problem becomes obvious. What’s to stop, for example, an initiative from demanding a three-quarters majority before taxes can be enacted? Four-fifths?

An initiative could conceivably prevent the Legislature from doing anything at all about taxation – which happens to be one of its core constitutional responsibilities.
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No to Initiative 1053 and tying legislators’ hands

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Supporters of Initiative 1053 argue that time is of the essence. Voters must act now to save the supermajority requirement for tax increases or cede the fight.

We beg to differ: Timing is I-1053’s downfall, not its selling point.

The measure purports to resurrect Initiative 960, which voters narrowly approved in 2007. What I-1053 really does is merely buy supermajority backers another two years of insurance against legislative intervention.

The 15 other states that require a supermajority for tax increases have seen fit to include the requirement in their state constitutions. This state has not. But the framers of our constitution did give the Legislature the power to amend a citizens initiative with a simple majority vote after two years.

Tim Eyman, author of both I-960 and I-1053, has made good use of that two-year window of protection.

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The editorial board’s television debut

Every year, we invite proponents and opponents of ballot measures to our office to state their case. This year, TVW got in on the act, asking us if crews could shoot some of our sessions. We jumped at the chance to show you all a little bit of how we do our jobs.

Below, you’ll find the footage from our Tuesday sessions. The first is our interview of Initiative 1053’s backers and foes. Tim Eyman couldn’t make it, but the Association of Washington Business came instead to explain why voters should (again) require a two-thirds vote of the

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