Voters' mandate on tax increases

December 5, 2012

What constitutes a clear mandate from the voters?

Let's consider the electoral history of the state's supermajority for taxes requirement.

Is it going five for five at the ballot box? Check (passed in 1993, 1998, 2007, 2010 and 2012).

Is it nearly 20 years of consistent support? Check.

Is it receiving the highest % support of any other statewide measure or office? Check (64%).

Is it receiving the most total number of votes of any other statewide measure or office? Check (1,892,969).

Is it passing in every county in the state? Check.

Is it passing in 44 of the state's 49 Legislative Districts (90%)? Check.

Judging from the above benchmarks, I think we can safely say the voters have passed a very clear and consistent mandate that tax increases require a supermajority vote or voter approval.

Though only 58 lawmakers have currently gone on the record in support of allowing the voters to consider a constitutional amendment to help resolve this debate once and for all, should lawmakers merely vote their Legislative Districts there would be 90% support for this policy.

Here are additional details on the voter mandate benchmarks for Initiative 1185 compared with I-1053 in 2010:

  • 1185: 64% yes (next highest SJR 8221 at 63%)
  • 1053: 64% yes 
  • 1185: 1,892,969 yes (next highest President Obama at 1,755,396)
  • 1053: 1,575,655 yes 
  • 1185: Adopted in all state counties
  • 1053: Adopted in 38 of 39 counties (failed in San Juan County)

As we wrote earlier this year in this Tacoma News Tribune op-ed:

A constitutional amendment would provide the public and businesses with predictability about whether this tax protection will exist from year to year and whether or not the four-time (pending fifth) approval of the voters for this policy was a fluke or actually reflects their consistent and ongoing desire for lawmakers to build a strong public consensus on the need for any proposed tax increase.

With voters and lawmakers repeatedly enacting the supermajority vote for taxes requirement over the past 20 years, what could be more representative of the public will than allowing a vote of the people on a constitutional amendment to help end this debate once and for all?

Whether a lawmaker supports or opposes this policy directive consistently sent by voters, at some point reality has to set in that requiring a supermajority vote for taxes or voter approval is the overwhelming will of the people.

Additional Information
Supermajority for Taxes Legislative Survey Results
(Results reflect original publication totals)
End the constant back-and-forth over supermajority for tax increases
Supermajority Vote Requirements Are a Basic Part of Washington's Democracy
Tax restrictions across the country

Initiative 1185: To Affirm the Two-thirds Vote Requirement for Tax Increases