Lawmakers sorely need ruling

January 15, 2013 

No one expected the state Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of Initiative-1053, which requires a two-thirds supermajority to increase taxes, before last fall’s general election.

But the high court should have ruled before Monday’s start of the 2013 legislative session. Its decision will have a profound impact on how the Legislature balances the 2013-2015 biennium budget.

For years, the Supreme Court has skillfully dodged the question of the constitutionality of a two-thirds’ vote requirement enacted by initiative or statute. By refusing to tackle the issue, the court has allowed years of endless bickering wrought from uncertainty for lawmakers, initiative makers and voters.

But after a King Count Superior Court judge ruled Initiative 1053 unconstitutional last year, the high court had no choice but to accept the case.

Democrats Rep. Sam Hunt and Rep. Chris Reykdal of the 22nd Legislative District joined other legislators and two advocacy groups in the lawsuit that resulted in the lower court’s ruling that the initiative process cannot be used to amend the state’s constitution.

Had the case reached the Supreme Court earlier, it might have had time to rule before I-1185 – another two-thirds voting initiative – reached the November ballot. That didn’t happen, and now the need for a ruling is urgent.

State lawmakers will spend the next 105 days wrangling over how to fill a nearly $1 billion budget gap and find another $1 billion to meet the constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education, as mandated by the Supreme Court in the McCleary decision.

The court’s decision will affect where and how the Legislature finds that money.

The fate of many government programs in the social services, health care and education hang in the balance. The Supreme Court has a responsibility to issue its ruling quickly.

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