Braun backs measure requiring two-thirds majority vote for tax hikes

Proposed amendment would add supermajority requirement to state’s constitution

OLYMPIA… Inspired by the repeated passage of initiatives requiring a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to raise taxes, Sen. John Braun is sponsoring Senate Joint Resolution 8200, which would let Washington voters decide whether to permanently add that supermajority standard to the state constitution.

Braun, R-Centralia, believes voters sent a strong message to lawmakers in November when they approved the two-thirds threshold for the third time in five years, in the form of Initiative 1185. The same standard had been approved in 2010 as Initiative 1053 and in 2007 as Initiative 960.

Washington’s constitution may be changed only by a vote of the people, while laws created through citizen initiatives – such as the I-1185 law and its predecessors – may be suspended after just two years with a simple-majority vote of the Legislature. Without I-1185’s passage, Braun explained, lawmakers could have raised taxes this legislative session with a majority vote rather than a supermajority, just as they did in 2010.

“The message to us was very clear,” Braun said. “The people want us to explore all other options before thinking about raising taxes. With such a strong, unified voice, why should Washingtonians have to vote over and over to keep this taxpayer protection in place?”
Braun added that including the higher standard in the constitution should change the mindset of lawmakers who look to tax increases ahead of reforms when considering how to fund taxpayer-supported services.

“Any business owner would be wise to look at making his or her operations more efficient and cost-effective before asking customers to pay more. That same thinking is what we need more of in Olympia,” said Braun, who is a longtime Lewis County employer.

Without such a constitutional amendment, Braun said voters should expect to see another initiative just like I-1185 on the 2014 ballot. That means more money will be spent on both sides, he added, noting how campaigns on both sides of the question collectively spent more than $1.5 million last year, more than $3.1 million in 2010, and more than $2.1 million in 2007, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.

“There’s all this money being spent — more than $6.7 million in five years – and the results are the same every time.” Braun said. “Passing this resolution through to the voters is the right thing to do.”