For Third Time, Washington State Lawmakers Reject Voters’ Initiative

For Third Time, Washington State Lawmakers Reject Voters’ Initiative
March 4, 2010

Jason Mercier

Jason Mercier is director of the Center for Government Reform for the Washington Policy Center. (read full bio)

On three separate occasions (1993, 1998 and 2007) Washington state voters have approved an initiative or referendum to require a two-thirds vote of lawmakers to raise taxes. On three separate occasions (2002, 2005 and 2010) the legislature and governor have signed a law to “temporarily” repeal this requirement.

In February Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) signed the latest two-year repeal of this requirement that voters reinstated in 2007 by approving Initiative 960 (I-960).

Advertised as the “Taxpayer Protection Act,” I-960 reaffirmed an oft-ignored law that requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature to raise taxes. The measure also required that all state fee increases be approved by the legislature and the public be notified via email any time a tax or fee increase is proposed.

I-960 also mandated that if the legislature raises taxes without first referring them for voter approval, the voters would have the opportunity to participate in a non-binding advisory vote on the tax increase.

Strong Support for I-960
According to a poll of 500 voters conducted by Seattle-based KING 5 TV, voters don’t support actions to repeal the law.

The KING 5 poll found 68 percent opposed the repeal of I-960, with only 24 percent in support. In addition the poll found 74 percent believe lawmakers should have to reach a two-thirds vote to raise taxes.

I-960 sponsor Tim Eyman has filed a new initiative to provide voters with their fourth opportunity to implement a two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases.

“If lawmakers and the governor will not be providing information about the tax increases they pass to the public, my research staff is more than willing to do the job,” said Dann Mead Smith, president of the Seattle-based Washington Policy Center. “In this economy, we believe people have a right to know how much lawmakers are adding to their financial burden.”

Pamphlet Also Canceled
Along with the two-year repeal of the two-thirds vote requirement, the Legislature and governor this year also repealed the non-binding advisory votes and a subsequent voters’ pamphlet.

For each tax increase, the public was to receive the following information in the voters’ pamphlet:

  • A description of each tax increase.
  • A 10-year estimate of how much lawmakers increased the financial burden they place on taxpayers.
  • A list showing how each lawmaker voted.
  • Each legislator’s contact information.

The Washington Policy Center will publish the public disclosure information that would have appeared in the voters' pamphlet if Initiative 960 had remained in place.

The project will be conducted by researchers at the Center’s independent Web site, WashingtonVotes.org.

Jason Mercier (jmercier@washingtonpolicy.org) is director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center in Seattle.

Jason Mercier

Jason Mercier is director of the Center for Government Reform for the Washington Policy Center. (read full bio)