Once again there is an effort under way in the state Legislature to impose a two-thirds majority approval for any tax increase.
And, once again, the effort attempts to contort the procedural rules in the Legislature to circumvent the state constitution.
As we have written before (and clearly we need to write it again), the only way to change the powers of the Legislature is to change the constitution — a two-thirds majority of both houses of the Legislature as well as approval by the people at the next election.
Those who have spent more than two decades trying to impose the two-thirds vote for tax increases have attempted to make this change through the initiative process. And although the proposal has been approved by voters six times, it has not held up in court. In 2013, the state Supreme Court declared the rule unconstitutional.
Now, state Sens. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, and Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, will be trying to reinstate the two-thirds rule for tax increases in the state Senate by imposing it before final passage of legislation is considered. Under their plan, according to a news release from Senate Republicans, it would require a two-thirds vote of the state Senate to advance tax bills from second reading to third reading — at least 33 of 49 senators. This, however, won’t change the requirement for a simple majority for final passage.
“This two-thirds rule will provide the Senate with the discipline it will need in the coming session to meet the challenge of fully funding basic education,” Baumgartner said. “Taxpayers have told us time and again that raising taxes should not be easy. As long as we have a two-thirds rule in the Senate, the Legislature won’t be able to take the easy way out.”
This feels like a move made by the majority party to silence the minority. That’s not right.
Baumgartner might consider taking his own advice and not “take the easy way out.”
Baumgartner, Erickson and others who support a two-thirds majority need to change the power of the Legislature through amending the constitution — and do it correctly. Get two-thirds of the House and Senate to put it on the ballot and then convince voters to approve it.
Until then, it’s hard to see this as anything more than another divisive partisan play to limit legislative power.