Lawmakers heard debate on three similar pieces of legislation Thursday that would make permanent, through a constitutional amendment, the two-thirds tax initiative voters approved this fall.
In November, voters supported Initiative 1185, which requires a two-thirds “supermajority” vote of the Legislature in order to raise taxes. Voters have passed similar rules four times in the past two decades, but lawmakers have been able to suspend those rules and pass taxes with a simple majority.
During Thursday’s hearing in the Senate Governmental Operations Committee, Sen. Don Benton (R-Vancouver) said it’s time to stop the Legislature from continually dismantling voter-approved initiatives.
“As a legislator and more as a citizen, I find it extremely insulting and arrogant that our elected officials continually slap down the will of the people,” he said. “I’m voted here to represent them, not to think for them.”
Opponents say amending the constitution goes too far, forever limiting the Legislature’s ability to find funding for education, social programs and other state needs.
“We feel this is a terrible fiscal idea that will harm our state’s finances. It will lead to more job losses and it provides the wealthy and corporations a tool to rig the system in their favor,” said Remy Trupin, the executive director of the Washington State Budget and Policy Center.
House Democrats brought a lawsuit against the 2010 two-thirds initiative. After a Seattle judge ruled the initiative violated the state constitution, it was appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Oral arguments were heard in September and a decision is expected this year.
The proposed constitutional amendment is unlikely to get support in the House, which has a Democratic majority. It is unclear if the resolutions will get a debate and vote on the Senate floor this session.
During the hearing, committee chair Pam Roach (R-Auburn) continually pointed to the 64 percent of voters who approved I-1185.
“Do we think the voters are not very smart, or what,” she said.
The committee took no action on the bills.