State Supreme Court on Two-Thirds for Taxes: Do it like Pierce County, Spokane
The Washington State Supreme Court on Thursday validated the actions of voters in Pierce County and the city of Spokane, who have recently adopted two-thirds requirements for tax increases locally.
In the majority ruling from the court striking down the state requirement, justices said they were not judging the “wisdom” of the policy, but rather how it was put into place. Writing for the majority, Justice Susan Owens said “should the people and the Legislature still wish to require a super-majority vote for tax legislation, they must do so through constitutional amendment, not through legislation.”
While there is concern about overruling the overwhelming will of the voters who have approved the policy five times (1993, 1998, 2007, 2010, 2012), there is much to learn about the court’s ruling.
The bottom line – it can and should be done constitutionally.
Pierce County and city of Spokane voters recently approved charter changes to adopt a two-thirds requirement for tax hikes at the local level. In each case, the council approved sending it to voters, and voters adopted the local amendment.
Yakima voters will be considering the same change in an election in August.
So it has to be for the state, according to the court. Legislators must refer it to voters and voters must approve the constitutional change to have the policy adopted. The policy preference doesn’t change.
Instead of disregarding the will of 1,892,969 voters, the legislature can learn from the experience in Pierce County and Spokane. As my colleague Jason Mercier points out, it's time to add this to the long list of supermajority requirements in the state's constitution.
What could be more democratic than voters having the right to decide the issue once and for all?