Supermajorities create a gridlock that only hurts state citizens

October 19, 2012 

Voters, are you tired of a Legislature that can’t make progress on fully funding basic education?

Do you want less-congested highways, and lower tolls on bridges? Do you want state parks that stay open, and in good repair? Do you want college tuitions that your family can afford?

Do you want quick response times from law enforcement, fire fighters and ambulances when you need them?

If you do, then you must reject Initiative 1185 on Nov. 6.

By continuing to support these Tim Eyman initiatives you are subverting a fundamental principle of representative democracy.

Initiative 1185 – like 1053 before it – would require a two-thirds supermajority vote in the Legislature to pass any new taxes that haven’t been approved by a vote of the people.

This has caused an acute state of paralysis in the state Legislature, because getting two-thirds of state lawmakers to agree on anything is a practical impossibility.

A supermajority gives unprecedented and undemocratic powers to the minority in just one area: tax increases. Lawmakers who oppose a tax proposal get twice the voting power of those who support it.

If this is such a good idea, why don’t we apply to every vote taken in the Legislature?

Well, voters rejected that idea by eliminating the supermajority requirement for excess school tax levies in 2007.

But maybe a good place to apply a supermajority would be on legislation giving tax loopholes to special interests, such as big oil, banks or the distributors of beer, wine and spirits.

There is a good reason why Eyman has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from oil companies and beer lobbyists to promote I-1185. It takes only a simple majority vote to create a tax advantage, but a near-to-impossible supermajority to reverse it.

There’s something inherently wrong in a state that has put a Democrat in the governor’s office for the last 28 years, and given liberal majorities to either the House or Senate or both over that same period, but keeps voting for Eyman’s anti-tax measures.

It doesn’t make sense.

If Washingtonians really believe our state’s most pressing problems can be solved without tax increases or closing tax loopholes, they should take responsibility for electing lawmakers committed to that principle. And toss them out if they can’t deliver.

By creating diametrically opposing forces – approving supermajorities and electing Democrats – voters ensure a Legislature locked-up over just about every major financial issue in this state.

As long as special interests get their way through bankrolling Eyman, and voters keep working against themselves, the state has little hope of making progress on big issues like education.

Perhaps the state Supreme Court will bail us out.

The high court is scheduled to rule this fall on whether or not a supermajority on legislative bills is constitutional.

Plaintiffs argued the authors of the state constitution intended only a simple majority when they wrote, “no bill shall become a law unless ... a majority of the members ... be recorded thereupon as voting in its favor.”

Voters could always help themselves, of course, by rationalizing their votes for supermajorities with their votes for state legislators.

Given our history, that doesn’t seem likely.

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