State Sen. Phil Rockefeller (D-23) makes the case for ending some of the 567 special tax preferences on the books in Washington:
Faced with a deep state deficit and deep cuts to vital services we should look first at ending unjustified tax breaks.
Many breaks on the books subsidize a privileged few at the expense of ordinary citizens. The notion of tax fairness, that everyone pays his or her fair share for core services that benefit everyone, has been trampled under the feet of special interest lobbyists.
These tax breaks are conveniently embedded in obscure tax law and routinely ignored, yet they divert billions of dollars into wealthy pockets. As a result, essential public services like education and health care are starved for funding.
Rockefeller admits that passage of I-1053 make the task more difficult. Given the widespread opinion that the 2/3 majority requirement of I-1053 would not pass Constitutional muster, if only we could get into the courts, why not use the budget crisis to force a showdown?
Here’s how it works. Declare that the projected revenue shortfall, following a biennium where spending has already been cut to the bone, makes it impossible for the legislature to pass a budget that lives up to the spirit of Article IX, Section 1 of the State Constitution:
It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.
The constitutional requirement of “ample provision for education…” simply isn’t happening.
Article IX, Section 3 gives lawmakers broad authority to do what is needed to fund education. If we cannot provide “ample” funding for education via existing taxes, lawmakers should provide short-term revenue for education through the repeal of tax preferences, using a simple majority to pass the legislation.
The mandate and the authority to accomplish it as spelled out in the Constitution trumps a law enacted through the initiative process. If Republicans believe the law trumps…they can sue.
But would they sue? The reality is that I-1053 is most potent when it stays out of the courts. The threat to I-1053 is serious enough that, perhaps, a bill to repeal tax preferences might just get that 2/3 majority as a way to avoid Judicial scrutiny.
As a certain Mayor-elect puts it:
“You don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste; it’s an opportunity to do important things that you would otherwise avoid.”