Mid-Columbia lawmakers push for change on tax hike

OLYMPIA — Eighth District representatives Larry Haler and Brad Klippert are calling for a constitutional amendment requiring the Legislature to approve all tax increases with a 60 percent majority.

The Mid-Columbia legislators' joint resolution, HJR 4208, is before the House Ways and Means Committee.

"This is the only real iron-clad fix we have," said Haler, a Richland Republican.

He noted state voters have time and again approved initiatives requiring a two-thirds majority on measures that would raise taxes, only to see the Legislature suspend that threshold rule after two years by a simple majority vote.

In November, 64 percent of state voters approved a two-thirds supermajority, or about 66 percent, vote on tax increases with Initiative 1053.

Haler and Klippert want to make such limits less vulnerable to legislative suspensions by having the rule added to the state constitution.

Their measure would ask voters in November to approve the constitutional amendment.

"Taxes right now in this economy are a serious issue," Klippert said. "Citizens told us before they didn't want to raise taxes without a two-thirds majority of the Legislature. This would return power to the people. We want to make it part of the state constitution so it can't be just a simple majority vote."

Haler said passage of I-1053 showed citizens support a two-thirds majority, but for political reasons he is supporting the three-fifths requirement.

"I went with the lower amount because I thought it would have a better chance of getting through," he said.

"(The Legislature) has had a history of dealing with ups and downs, and we've all been through financial difficulties, but the citizens need an assurance there's at least a 60 percent requirement (on tax increases) in the House and Senate," Haler said.

"When it comes to raising taxes, we don't want to go against the will of the people," said Klippert, a Kennewick Republican.

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, is considering similar legislation for a constitutional amendment, but with a two-thirds majority for tax increases. His staff said he had not filed the bill as of Thursday.