2/3-for-any-taxes victory lap – thank you WA Policy Center for this fantastic post
This is incredibly informative — it’s truly required reading:
Senate adopts rule to require 2/3 vote for tax bills to move to floor
By JASON MERCIER, Washington Policy Center, Jan 12, 2017, http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/publications/detail/senate-adopts-rule-to-require-23-vote-for-tax-bills-to-move-to-floor
The only thing currently colder than the weather is the Senate’s reaction to Governor Inslee’s more than $5 billion tax increase proposals. Acknowledging this reality, when asked by TVW if he expects his proposals to be enacted the Governor responded with a laugh: “Obviously this isn’t the budget that is going to pass the legislature because this is a democracy and everyone is going to have a say in this.”
Speaking of a democracy and having a say in things, six times since 1993 the voters have passed a ballot measure to require a supermajority vote to raise taxes. Following an adverse court ruling in 2013 a constitutional amendment is needed to make this policy binding on the full legislature. While efforts continue to allow the voters to be the ones to finally end this debate and not the courts, the Senate took action this week to tell voters they’ve been heard loud and clear.
As allowed under Article 2, Section 9 of the state constitution the Senate adopted its procedural rules this week. Of particular note is Rule 64 which requires a 2/3 vote to move a bill that increases taxes to the floor unless a referendum clause is included (Eyman here: this is the exact wording in Rule 64: “… any bill that raises taxes requires the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the senators elected or appointed to advance to third reading, unless the bill contains a referendum clause. ‘Raises taxes’ means increasing state tax revenue deposited in any fund, budget, or account.”).
This rule doesn’t require a 2/3 vote for final passage (the issue of the court ruling) but instead addresses the procedural way certain bills come to the floor. Though some say this is unconstitutional the Supreme Court has made it clear that the constitution gives the legislature the power to set its own procedural rules.
A press release from Sen. Baumgartner and Sen. Ericksen noted:
“Two years ago, the Senate adopted a similar requirement for the passage of new taxes. But Lt. Gov. Brad Owen refused to enforce it, saying he believed the rule unconstitutional. Lawmakers did not challenge the ruling at that time. Baumgartner and Ericksen maintain the ruling was improper, and say they will quickly demand a vote to override such a ruling should it occur again.” http://dougericksen.src.wastateleg.org/baumgartner-ericksen-seek-reinstatement-two-thirds-taxes-rule-senate/
Senate Rule 32 allows for rulings of the Lt. Governor to be overturned. Additional details on that process here: http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/publications/detail/will-the-senate-vote-to-enforce-its-rules.
While the new Senate rule is a step in the right direction the full legislature should ultimately allow the voters to finally end this debate once and for all with a constitutional amendment. For over 20 years the voters have consistently said they want their lawmakers to reach a broad bipartisan consensus before raising taxes, or to allow voters to make the decision directly. We agree with the Governor that this is a democracy and “everyone should have a say in this.”
Also, during last year’s campaign, former Lt. Governor Brad Owen called out Cyrus Habib’s uber-activist, partisan campaign promises. In a July 2016 oped published in Crosscut, Owen provides a road map to the MCC if Cyrus Habib goes off the rails and tries to take away the 2/3 rule – Owen wrote:
“Brown v Owen reaffirmed the Senate’s remedy when it disagrees with the ruling of the president: a majority vote of the body to overturn it – surely something that will happen more frequently if a new lieutenant governor presides in a partisan manner.”
Thank you all for making the 2/3-for-any-tax-increase senate rule a reality. It only happened because of your support and voter approval for our initiatives 960, 1053, 1185, and especially 1366. I’m so proud of all of you.