OLYMPIA — Initiative promoter Tim Eyman filed a ballot measure Wednesday to make all tax hikes passed by the Washington state Legislature expire after a year.
Under the initiative, the one-year limit would go away if state lawmakers pass a constitutional amendment to require a legislative supermajority to raise taxes and eliminate tax breaks.
If passed by the Legislature by a two-thirds majority in each chamber, the amendment would need a simple majority of voters to be enacted.
The initiative comes in the wake of a Washington Supreme Court ruling in February which found that a previous Eyman-promoted initiative requiring a legislative supermajority to pass a tax increase violated the state’s constitution.
Eyman has run anti-tax ballot initiative measures since the 1990s. He has repeatedly seen his supermajority-for-tax-increases initiatives overturned by the Legislature two years after their passage, once lawmakers could do so by a simple majority vote.
He said that it was “silly” of him to have kept pursuing those initiatives every other year. The Supreme Court’s ruling spurred him to pursue a permanent solution, he said.
“Those were all the scrimmages,” said Eyman.
“This one’s the Super Bowl.”
Hugh Spitzer, a University of Washington law professor specializing in state constitutional law, said he doesn’t think the initiative passes legal muster.
“My hunch is the (Washington Supreme) Court would find a blanket limit on all tax increases would be inconsistent with a number of decisions they’ve made about trying to limit the fundamental processes of the Legislature through initiatives rather than with a constitutional amendment,” Spitzer said.
Opponents of the initiative say it is a simplistic way of dealing with tax policy that would make it difficult for lawmakers to write two-year budgets and would starve the state of funding needed to help students, the poor, the aged and the infirm.
Eyman conceded that lawmakers could use the same tactic they’ve used to override his previous initiatives. But he said he was confident that the provisions in this initiative will be sufficiently unpalatable to lawmakers to move them to pass the constitutional amendment he seeks.