State Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-18, Kalama) is leading a pack of 32 house Republicans (out of 42) to pass a constitutional amendment bill (introduced on Tuesday) that would require a two-thirds vote of the people to raise taxes. The amendment, if passed, would enshrine Tim Eyman's recently instated Initiative 1053 in the state constitution.
Washingtonians have debated and approved initiatives requiring a two-thirds majority requirement for higher taxes four times over the last two decades. In a statement posted on the House Republican Caucus web site, Orcutt said "we need to end this tax increase tug-of-war that finds desperate legislators warring with voters over tax increases year after year."
Given that Democrats are chattering about the possibility of challenging the initiative in court, Orcutt's legislation is seen by some Democrats as an acknowledgment the 1053's two-thirds requirement is unconstitutional. (Liberals argue that the two-thirds majority concept changes the rules of the state constitution—the constitution says a simple majority of legislators can pass laws, making no exception for tax laws—and changing the rules of the constitution requires a constitutional amendment.) However, Rep. Orcutt tells PubliCola he just wanted to end the Democrats' habit of repealing the rule, saying he just wanted to "embed it in the constitution," plain and simple.
The amendment isn't likely to go over well with the Democrats, however. Jeff Reading, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane) said Brown's opposition to the two-thirds majority requirement was "not about politics, but about principle," explaining that she supports the notion a simple majority no matter who's in power.
Rep. Orcutt says his legislation would also require a two-thirds majority in both houses to end a tax exemption, or corporate loophole, because ending and exemption is like raising taxes. (Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-36, thinks its unfair that it requires a simple majority to pass tax exemptions, but two-thirds to repeal them, and is proposing legislation to sunset all loopholes and so that they all have to get vetted every two years, just like any budget expenditure.)
Orcutt's constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of the legislature and a majority vote of the people.
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