Today the Washington State Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated ruling on a lawsuit challenging the two-thirds majority vote required for the Legislature to adopt a tax increase. In a 6-3 decision the high court ruled the higher threshold for tax increases is unconstitutional, saying it is now up to voters to address the issue.
“I am obviously disappointed with today’s decision,” said Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville. “The court can rule the way the court decides to rule, but our caucus will stand with the people of this state.
“Washington voters have repeatedly said that they want to see this basic taxpayer protection kept in place and they want it to be harder – not easier – for their taxes to be raised. The only option that now remains for them is to amend the state constitution and put this issue to bed once and for all.”
The law overturned today was created by Initiative 1053 in 2010. Initiative 1185, which affirmed the two-thirds-vote requirement for tax increases, received a 64 percent “yes” vote in 2012; it passed in every Washington county and in 44 of the state’s 49 legislative districts.
“If citizens have wondered why the Majority Coalition Caucus is so important, this is why; today’s decision underlies the need for our emphasis on reforms and spending restraint,” said Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue. “The people didn’t send us to Olympia to look for ways to tax them more.”
In its decision the court appears to agree. On page 23 of today’s ruling the court states: “Our holding is not a judgment on the wisdom of requiring a supermajority for passage of tax legislation … Should the people and the legislature still wish to require a supermajority vote, they should do so through a constitutional amendment.
Policy experts also weighed in on the decision. “For the past 20 years the voters have consistently made clear they want their lawmakers to reach a broad consensus on the need to raise taxes or include the voters directly on the decision,” said Jason Mercier of the nonpartisan Washington Policy Center. “Today the Supreme Court invalidated this taxpayer protection but did not negate the fact that on five separate occasions the voters have demanded this requirement.”