State Supreme Court should support I-1053, the two-thirds tax rule
The Seattle Times editorial board supports Initiative 1053, the two-thirds rule for raising state taxes, and disagrees with Judge Bruce Heller's ruling against it.
Seattle Times Editorial
JUDGE Bruce Heller of King County Superior Court, who threw out Initiative 1053, will not have the last word on the two-thirds rule for taxes. The Washington Supreme Court will have the last word, and it should reach a decision opposite of Heller's.
Initiative 1053 sets a two-thirds voting requirement in both chambers for the Legislature to increase taxes, or simple majorities plus a vote of the people. It is a law that expresses the people's distrust of legislators and makes work difficult for them.
This page supported it because we thought the state's budget problems should be met with reforms and spending cuts, and that a two-thirds rule would steer decisions in that direction.
It did. The rule works.
We do not argue that Heller is legally mistaken. The Washington Constitution does not allow an initiative to raise the threshold for passing a law. Nor does it disallow it. Given that the Supreme Court can decide either way, we believe the court should let the people have what they want.
They clearly want this. In 2010 they voted 64 percent in favor of a two-thirds rule. They voted for it in 2007, 1999, 1998 and 1993. Signatures are being collected now for I-1185, which would allow them to vote for it in November. And they will vote for it.
Initiatives are not amendments to the constitution. An amendment is forever, unless repealed. An initiative is much easier to pass, but lasts only two years before the Legislature can sweep it aside by majority vote.
An initiative amounts to a sub-constitutional restraint on the Legislature, a useful thing to have. It is a kind of trial amendment: The people get a taste of it, and to keep it in effect, they have to keep passing it. Unfortunately for those who now cheer Judge Heller, taking away the initiative option leaves only the option of a full constitutional amendment.
People should be careful what they wish for.