Thanks to Washingtonians’ approval of I-1053’s 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases in 2010, voters will have the final say on any potential tax increases in 2012.
When announcing her budget yesterday, Governor Gregoire said she wants voters to weigh in on her plan to raise the sales tax by $500 million for the current budget. Involving the voters in this decision would not be occurring if not for the four-time voter approval of the state’s 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases (currently under legal challenge).
Under the 2/3 requirement, if a broad consensus cannot be reached in the Legislature to increase citizens’ tax burden, a simple majority of lawmakers can put a tax referendum on the ballot for the voters to consider. This is likely what will occur now that the Governor has indicated she wants a March vote for Washingtonians to consider her half a billion dollar sales tax increase.
Here is the timeline for that scenario to unfold according to the Secretary of State:
- Dec. 30 – Last day for Legislature to pass tax referendum bill for March 13 election
- February 10 – Military and overseas ballots mailed for March election
- February 21 – Mailing of voters’ pamphlets begins for March 13 election
- February 24 – Regular ballots mailed for March 13 election
- March 13 – Election Day
There will be plenty of time to debate the merits of the Governor’s tax proposal but one thing isn’t open for debate, I-1053 is working exactly the way voters intended by providing them the opportunity to ultimately decide this important question.
To help ensure this opportunity continues in the future, 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. This would provide the public and businesses with predictability about whether this tax protection will exist from year to year and clarify whether or not the four-time approval of the voters for this policy was a fluke or actually reflects their consistent and ongoing desire for lawmakers to build a strong public consensus on the need for any proposed tax increase.