We have historically opposed initiative activist Tim Eyman’s efforts to handcuff the Legislature’s ability to govern. We saw them as unnecessary in a representative government where lawmakers are elected to carry out the will of the people.
Yet, when voters enthusiastically approved measures that imposed the handcuffs — a two-thirds approval of the Legislature to raise taxes — lawmakers used their power to, well, pick the lock. After a ballot measure is on the books for two years, lawmakers can make changes to the law by a simple majority.
Two years ago Eyman pushed through a ballot measure to reimpose the two-thirds requirement or seek voter approval for tax increases. We endorsed that measure because we objected to the way in which the voters’ will was usurped by the Legislature.
Eyman is back this year with the same ballot measure approved in 2010 because he and his backers are using some political trickery of their own. Initiative 1185 restates the previous law so that lawmakers will have to wait another two years to tinker with or override the two-thirds majority requirement to approve taxes.
We urge voters to approve I-1185.
The two-thirds requirement has not prevented lawmakers from increasing taxes or fees; it’s simply made it more difficult. It’s forced lawmakers from both major political parties to fully debate the merits and compromise. We see that as a positive.
Opponents of I-1185 claim requiring a two-third majority is unconstitutional because they see it as a limit to the power granted the Legislature by the state constitution.
We and others don’t agree. The specifics of how the Legislature operates it not guided by the state constitution. It simply states they have the power to approve laws and taxes.
The Legislature itself imposes rules and procedures on how laws and taxes are approved. The two-thirds requirement imposed by voters is no different.
If this measure becomes law, we would expect its constitutionality will be challenged. That’s certainly appropriate. And if the courts ultimately strike down the two-thirds requirement then it will be unconstitutional.
But for now the law imposed two years ago remains valid. We recommend voters renew that law through I-1185 to prevent the Legislature from gutting the two-thirds requirements for tax increases.