Will of the people, blah, blah, blah, blah…
DEMOCRATIC leaders in Olympia should not be so eager to brush aside Initiative 960, which sets the two-thirds threshold for the Legislature to raise taxes. The people have voted for a two-thirds rule three times — in 1993, 1998 and in 2007. Clearly they want it that way.
Without I-960, the Legislature can raise taxes with a simple majority of both houses and signature of the governor. I-960 raises the bar by requiring a two-thirds vote of both houses or a vote of the people. Raising taxes is not impossible — hardly that — but it is more difficult.
The state constitution protects successful initiatives for two years. During that time they can be modified with a two-thirds vote of both houses. Last month, the two years were up for I-960, which can now be brushed aside with simple majorities. But that is not what the people wanted.
Let’s be honest, the Seattle Times editorial board only vigorously defends the will of the people when they agree with it. On issues like light rail and renewable energy requirements, not so much.
Besides, the law is the law, and as the Times argues, if the people don’t like it, they are free to change it. For example, the Constitution says that the Legislature can amend an initiative of the people after two years. If that’s such a big problem then perhaps the Times should endorse a Constitutional amendment that keeps the Legislature’s hands off initiatives, and allows them only to be amended via initiative. After all, just such a restriction on legislative powers has worked out so well for California, hasn’t it?
And you know what else the state Constitution says? That all legislation, even that raising taxes or eliminating tax breaks, requires only a simple majority to pass. The Washington Supreme Court has never approved I-960’s super-majority requirements, rather, all previous challenges to these provisions have been rejected due to lack of standing. And again, unlike in California, Washington citizens cannot amend the Constitution via initiative.
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that an initiative should remain inviolable but the Constitution should not.
Or I guess, if you’re the Seattle Times ed board, I suppose you think you can.