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Tag: Initiative 1185


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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State voters were generous – if there wasn’t a price

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Tuesday’s election returns suggest that Washington is becoming a libertarian paradise – a place where gays can marry, marijuana is legal and parents might even be given the choice of independent schools for their children.

But oh, by the way – not a penny more for public education or other state programs.

A telltale piece of evidence lies deep in the down-ballot election returns, in the tally on two advisory votes that have no legal effect whatsoever.

The 2012 Legislature voted to end a tax break for big banks and maintain a soon-to-expire tax on petroleum inventories.

Both moves got broad bipartisan support in the Legislature. When candidates talk about “loopholes,” they’re talking about items like the banks’ deduction for home-loan interest and tax breaks for the petroleum industry.

What did the voters think? Apparently, if it can be construed as a tax increase – even for a coddled industry – they don’t like it. On election day, the big banks got a 58 percent thumbs-up from the electorate.

Meanwhile, voters overwhelmingly enacted Initiative 1185, which reaffirmed the existing requirement that new taxes need a two-thirds majority in the Legislature. Even with two-thirds, the lawmakers in that supermajority must be publicly shamed through the advisory vote process, which involves publishing their names in the voters’ pamphlet.

Referendum 74’s narrow victory was a breakthrough for marriage equality. But it was no money out of pocket for Washingtonians. One wonders how it might have fared had it actually required some minimal financial sacrifice to enact it. It’s a fortunate thing that civil rights don’t come with a price tag attached.
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I-1185 voters: Don’t also expect more state services

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

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