The day legislative Democrats supported a 2/3 for taxes requirement

February 27, 2013

Based on the overwhelming support for I-1053 in 2010 and I-1185 in 2012 (both passing with 64%) it is safe to say that Democrats, Republicans and Independent voters across the state support the requirement for tax increases to receive a 2/3 vote or be sent to voters for approval. Despite I-1185 passing in 44 of the state's 49 legislative districts, however, that support does not appear to extend to Democrats in the Legislature (with a few exceptions).

Judging from the vote on a bill in 2006, however, this was not always the case.

Consider SB 6896, approved on a party-line vote in 2006 with only Democrat support. While making changes to the state's spending limit an amendment was adopted that would re-instate the 2/3 vote requirement from its temporary suspension a year early.

The amendment was approved unanimously on a voice vote. Speaking on behalf of the Democrats, then Sen. Mark Doumit said on the floor, "We gratefully accept this amendment."

As noted by the bill report for SB 6896: “The authority of the Legislature to increase state revenues without a two-thirds vote is terminated on June 30, 2006.”

Here is the Senate roll call and here is the House roll call on SB 6896.

This means that not only did the Democrats on this bill not vote to repeal the requirement but instead went the opposite direction and voted to explicitly re-instate it a year early.

Now to be fair to the Democrats, this isn't the first time they've indirectly supported the requirement. Despite having the numbers needed to repeal the law on several occasions they've only voted to temporarily "suspend" it. Here are the previous temporary suspensions of the voter-approved 2/3 requirement:

Yesterday the Senate Ways and Means Committee heard testimony on SJR 8205, a proposed constitutional amendment to provide voters the opportunity to resolve this debate once and for all and put the 2/3 vote requirement into the constitution.

Here is prime sponsor of SJR 8205 Senator Pam Roach's testimony yesterday reminding committee members that I-1185 was approved in 44 of the state's 49 legislative districts:

Based on the reaction of some of the committee members to Amber Carter's testimony (Association of Washington Business), they apparently forgot their vote in support of the 2/3 vote requirement in 2006:

Here is my testimony on SJR 8205 when it was in the Senate Government Operations Committee:

While it's true that opinions change over time and Democrats may regret their vote in 2006 and not having instead repealed the now five-time voter-approved law when they had the chance, they don't need to treat SJR 8205 as their opportunity for a makeup vote. Instead they could take the approach that they'll have one more chance, a sixth opportunity, to make the case to the voters on why or why not this policy should be in place.

For Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature, there's nothing to fear but the will of their constituents, one way or another.