Supermajority Condition for Tax Hikes Tossed

     (CN) – A King County judge has ruled a voter-approved initiative requiring a legislative supermajority to raise taxes is unconstitutional.
     Initiative 1053 was approved in 2010 and has resulted in “severe budget cuts with major impacts to infrastructure and programs,” according to Judge Bruce Heller.
     A coalition of educational groups, including The League of Education Voters, Democratic legislators and taxpayers sued to overturn the law, arguing that a two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases can only be implemented by an amendment to the Washington Constitution.
     Heller found that only a majority is required for a bill to become law under the Constitution.
     “While initiative measures reflect the reserved power of the people to legislate, the people in their legislative capacity remain subject to mandates of the Constitution,” Heller said.
     Washington’s Constitution has 16 legislative supermajority provisions, “none of which include tax bills,” according to the ruling.
     “Since the framers knew how to create supermajority exceptions to the Constitution’s general rule of majority approval for other actions but did not do so for tax bills, the court presumes that the absence of supermajority language was intentional,” Heller said.
     In his ruling, Heller said every state that has enacted a supermajority or voter-approved requirements for passing tax bills has done so by constitutional amendment except Washington.
     Heller also struck down a provision that requires voter approval of any tax increases that will result in expenditures in excess of state budget limits, finding “it prevents future legislatures from exercising their law-making power.”
     I-1053 was the latest of four initiatives passed since 1993 that limit the state’s ability to raise taxes.
     Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna said in a statement that he will appeal the decision to the Washington State Supreme Court.

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