Those opposed to supermajority requirements, now propose their own

January 6, 2014

The president of the Spokane City Council Ben Stuckart has joined the list of politicians who have apparently flipped positions on supermajority vote requirements.

A year ago, he strongly opposed Washington Policy Center’s recommendation that Spokane taxpayers have the benefit of a supermajority requirement to raise taxes at the local level. It’s an idea WPC has long supported at both the state and local level.

The idea is popular. State voters have approved it five times, only to see it repealed by the legislature four times and then later struck down by the state Supreme Court when justices said it had to be done constitutionally.

Voters in the city of Spokane engaged in an intense debate over the issue last year, before agreeing the idea was a good one and should be placed in the city’s constitution. Mr. Stuckart voted to put it on the ballot. But he also joined union executives, liberal newspaper columnists and left-of-center politicians in calling the idea “unfair” and “undemocratic.” Stuckart went so far to say it would “kill government.”

What a difference a year makes. Now, Council President Stuckart wants to add a supermajority requirement in Spokane. His proposal would require a supermajority vote for the city council to change council rules. It may very well be a good idea, but it’s dripping with irony.

Washington Policy Center continues to support a higher threshold for government officials to do certain things like raise taxes or access money in a rainy day account. The state constitution, in fact, has more than 20 supermajority requirements.

It will be interesting to see if the unions and liberal columnists go after Council President Stuckart for bringing forward the idea for a supermajority on council rule changes. After all, if a supermajority requirement to raise taxes is unfair because it is “undemocratic,” aren’t all supermajority requirements unfair?

(UPDATE: 1/6/2014, 9:50pm): Council President Stuckart withdrew this idea from consideration at tonight's city council meeting.