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Friday, July 13, 2012 - Page updated at 10:30 p.m.
The Times recommends: Support Initiative 1185, the two-thirds-vote-for-taxes rule
INITIATIVE 1185, which will be on the statewide November ballot, would require a two-thirds vote in both houses of the Legislature, or a simple majority vote of the people, to raise taxes. The voters of Washington have seen this proposal before and approved it before. They should do so again.
Every time the two-thirds rule comes up, opponents denounce it as undemocratic. We disagree. Initiative 1185 allows a tax increase by simple majority vote of the people, and what is more democratic than that? The initiative itself also requires a simple majority vote of the people to take effect.
This is not undemocratic. It is unrepublican. It binds representatives of the people, their legislators.
Lawmakers complain about the two-thirds rule to us, intimating that we underappreciate the difficulties of making law. We think they underappreciate the difficulties of paying more taxes.
In a financially pinched age, the two-thirds rule does make work more difficult for them, but they can still raise taxes if enough of them want to. They did so this year by repealing an exemption for certain income of big multistate banks, which was legally a tax increase.
Voters may be asking why the two-thirds rule keeps coming back. The reason is that it is a law to bind legislators, and legislators are inclined to change such a law as soon as they can. The state constitution says legislators cannot change a law passed by initiative for two years unless they have a two-thirds vote. Therefore, a two-thirds-for-taxes rule may be imposed on an unwilling Legislature for two years only.
Regarding the previous measure, Initiative 1053, that grant of immunity expires at the end of this year.
Judge Bruce Heller of King County Superior Court recently ruled that the two-thirds requirement is unconstitutional. The state Supreme Court ultimately will decide this case.
In the meantime, people who like this limit on lawmakers should vote for it, democratically, again and again.
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