A dozen state legislators are suing their state, saying Washington voters have passed an unconstitutional measure that keeps them from raising taxes.
The lawsuit is being filed this morning by lawmakers, including Reps. Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma and Jamie Pedersen of Seattle, who laid the groundwork for their challenge to Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053 during the legislative session.
Here’s some background on the political theater during the session, when the House couldn’t summon the two-thirds supermajority necessary to pass Jinkins’ bill that would have raised taxes on big banks in order to avert class-size increases in elementary grades.
The lawmakers, including Sam Hunt of Olympia and Chris Reykdal of Tumwater, are joined in their suit by the League of Education Voters, the Washington Education Association, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Utter and others. The defendant: the state and Gov. Chris Gregoire, who agrees with them that a court should decide the constitutionality of I-1053.
The teachers’ union said in a news release today:
A provision of the statute in question requires a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the Legislature to raise revenue or modify tax preferences. The plaintiffs believe that the state constitution is clear that such measures require only a majority vote of the legislature. The state’s constitution cannot be amended by statute, regardless of how that statute came into existence.
“The idea of providing a $100 million tax break for huge, out-of-state banks at the same time as we are making deep cuts in our schools just seems ridiculous,” said state Representative Laurie Jinkins, sponsor of SHB 2078. “Even the lobbyists for these banks admitted in a committee hearing that Washington home-buyers were receiving no benefit from this tax break, but the supermajority requirement prevented us from closing the loopholes and redirecting that money to education.”
Eyman contends that the supermajority requirement repeatedly approved by voters is constitutional. The courts have been asked to decide the issue before, including in a lawsuit filed by Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown against Lt. Gov. Brad Owen — but the Supreme Court declined to rule on the substance of the complaint.