Just hours after the Washington state Supreme Court struck down an initiative requiring a two-thirds supermajority requirement for tax votes, Senate Republicans pushed through a bill in the Ways and Means Committee Thursday that would ask voters to write the rule into the state Constitution instead.
The nearly party-line vote was 13-to-10, with Democratic Sen. Rodney Tom voting with the rest of his Senate Majority Coalition Caucus members.
Members of both parties sounded a bit grumpy as they traded speeches on Senate Joint Resolution 8205. , which is sponsored by Republican Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn.
Based on the polarized committee vote it may have trouble even getting the 33-vote supermajority needed in the full Senate to send the question to voters – unless eight Democratic caucus members cross over.
The concept faces a steeper climb in the Democrat-controlled House where Majority Leader Pat Sullivan and others consider it a bad idea to tie up an already stick legislative process.
With that in mind perhaps, Tom said earlier today that he would have his Republican-dominated coalition put the two-thirds vote into Senate rules as a way to thwart potential tax hikes.
Before taking the vote in committee, conservative Democratic Sen. Brian Hatfield of Raymond offered an amendment to SJR 8205 that would have subjected all legislative votes to the two-thirds supermajority rule for passage. Hatfield regards the two-thirds vote as a silly, simplistic recipe for gridlock.
Hatfield said that if it is true – that the Legislature can’t be trusted, as he quoted Republican Sen. Barbara Bailey of Oak Harbor as saying – “then truly we should have a two-thirds requirement for all measures … Let’s go all the way and have true gridlock.’’
Needless to say his amendment died a quick death.
Tom then urged passage of the measure. He said voters have approved the two-thirds tax vote rule five times since 1993 and that voters in all but five legislative districts favored the two-thirds rule by passing I-1185 last November.
“It is a simple concept but it is a powerful message – there should be a higher bar when it comes to raising taxes,’’ Tom said.
“People have spoken loudly and clearly they want taxes raised only as a last resort,’’ added Republican Sen. Mike Padden of Spokane Valley.
But Democratic Caucus Leader Ed Murray cited a piece of today’s Supreme Court majority opinion that said a two-thirds vote requirement would enable a “tyranny of the minority,” which framers of the state Constitution had concerns about.
“I think by voting for this you are voting against a core principle this nation was founded on – a core principle’’ of majority rule, Murray said.
“I don’t think our voters send us down her to raise taxes or to not raise taxes. They send us down her to enact good policies,’’ added Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle. “It’s very difficult … when a minority can dictate what we do to effect good public policy.’’
The committee’s roll call vote on SJR 8205 was:
- Voting yes – Republican Sens. Hill, Baumgartner, Honeyford, Bailey, Becker, Braun, Dammeier, Hewitt, Padden, Parlette, Rivers and Schoesler and maverick Democratic Sen. Tom.
- Voting no – Democratic Sens. Nelson, Hargrove, Conway, Fraser, Hasegawa, Hatfield, Keiser, Kohl-Welles, Murray and Ranker.