There is universal expectation that after next Thursday’s state revenue forecast lawmakers will need to make substantial reductions to the 2011-13 budget adopted earlier this year. The Speaker of the House and the Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee have already stated their desire to consider tax increases next year.
According to Publicola:
“On KUOW’s ‘The Conversation’ yesterday, state House speaker Frank Chopp (D-43, Seattle) indicated that he might be open to suspending Tim Eyman’s voter-approved ‘two-thirds’ rule, I-1053, which requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature to raise taxes. The legislature can suspend any initiative two years after it passes, and in 2010, they did just that, suspending Eyman’s earlier I-960 rule to raise $771 million in revenue. Later that year, voters passed I-1053, reinstating the two-thirds rule. Next year is the first opportunity for the legislature to overturn that initiative.
Although he did not explicitly say he would support suspending I-1053, Chopp responded to host Ross Reynolds’ question about the two-thirds requirement by referring to the ‘extraordinary economic times.'”
The Seattle Times adds:
“[Sen.] Murray also noted that while he plans to work with Republicans to craft a budget as was done in the past session, he told Zarelli he wants to send voters a tax package that could bring in additional money to support state programs.
[Sen.] Zarelli said he would not support sending voters a tax package.”
If lawmakers are going to send voters a proposed tax referendum they should also put a constitutional amendment enforcing the four-time voter approved 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases on the ballot (especially since some are already talking about suspending it again and others are suing to have it overturned). The legislative vote for both measures could be clearly framed as not an endorsement of the policies but instead an opportunity for the citizens to decide.
Though not identical, this is similar to what lawmakers said they were doing in 2005 when they placed a constitutional amendment on the ballot to reduce the vote threshold needed for voter approved school levies. At the time several lawmakers said they didn’t necessarily support the policy but the voters should have the opportunity to be heard. This would provide voters the opportunity to weigh in on both proposals while finally putting to rest once and for all the debate about the 2/3 vote requirement.