Two-thirds tax hurdle unnecessary, unwise, ill-timed

Tim Eyman may be better at reading the will of the voters than he is at guessing the thinking of judges.

Following oral arguments early last week before King County Superior Court Judge William Downing, Eyman expressed optimism that Initiative 1366 — the Mukilteo initiative promoter’s latest attempt to force a two-thirds majority requirement to raise taxes and close tax loopholes — would be upheld in court, forcing the Legislature to put a constitutional amendment to a vote of the people or accept a significant reduction in state sales tax revenue.

Eyman, in an email to the media, claimed that Downing “signaled early and often that he wasn’t buying what 1366’s opponents were selling.”

Downing may have a better poker face than Eyman realized.

On Thursday, the judge struck down I-1366 in its entirety, calling it a thinly disguised effort to propose an amendment to the state constitution, a power that is reserved for the Legislature and can’t be done through the initiative process.

The “pressure-wielding mechanism” in the initiative, forcing lawmakers to choose between the constitutional amendment or slashing the sales tax, violated the state constitutional requirement that limits initiatives to one subject, a provision that has previously tripped up Eyman. Put more than one subject in an initiative and the waters of the voters’ intent are muddied.

An appeal of Downing’s decision is expected. Failing that, Eyman filed a place-holder initiative late last year that he is expected to refile soon that would limit the term of any tax increase to a year unless approved by a two-thirds majority of lawmakers.

Eyman has claimed repeatedly, that regardless of court rulings, what remains from his initiatives is the mandate from a majority of voters. Never mind that Eyman needs only a simple majority and not a super-majority to pass his legislation.

Like lawmakers, the voters can be wrong and are subject to our democracy’s checks and balances, as has been proved anytime an initiative has been found unconstitutional.

That doesn’t mean that a two-thirds requirement is necessarily unconstitutional. But it is unnecessary, unwise and ill-timed.

Unnecessary, because the state’s voters have elected a Legislature that is relatively balanced between Democrats and Republicans, who during its last session, save for a gas tax increase, avoided significant tax increases despite several proposals.

Unwise, because, as the gas tax vote in House and Senate demonstrated, a two-thirds majority would have made that increase impossible, and would have scuttled $16.1 billion in desperately needed transportation infrastructure spending in the state, including $670 million in Snohomish County.

Ill-timed, because a two-thirds requirement would make it even more difficult to reform the school levy system and resolve the current K-12 education funding mess.

If a two-thirds requirement for tax increases is the will of the people, then the state’s tax system should be reformed first. Otherwise, that two-thirds requirement would lock in a 0.system where the reliance on sales and property taxes has subjected the state’s residents to the most regressive system in the nation and where its business and occupation taxes put it 32nd in the nation for business tax burden.

Previously we’ve supported state Treasurer Jim McIntyre’s proposal to reform state taxes by reducing property, sales and business and occupation taxes, instituting a flat 5 percent income tax, and creating some predictability for the reforms by putting the two-thirds majority issue to the voters.

We’d suggest an initiative, but that’s more than one subject.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Wednesday, May 22

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

The vessel Tonga Chief, a 10-year-old Singaporean container ship, is moored at the Port of Everett Seaport in November, 2023, in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald file photo)
Editorial: Leave port tax issue for campaign, not the ballot

Including “taxing district” on ballot issue to expand the Port of Everett’s boundaries is prejudicial.

Burke: Torrent of lies doing what’s intended; wearing us down

When media outlets stop bothering to check the facts that leaves it to us to question the falsehoods.

Drivers could have helped limit mess from I-5 shutdown

While I was not involved in the I-5 northbound traffic backup on… Continue reading

Everett School District should allow graduates to wear regalia

My name is Lanie Thompson, and I am a current senior at… Continue reading

Making college affordable key to our future

The cost of attending college is prohibitively expensive. This barrier to entry… Continue reading

Kristof: If slowing Gaza aid isn’t criminal, it’s unconscionable

The allegations against Israel’s Netanyahu center on Israel’s throttling of aid into a starving Gaza.

Editorial cartoons for Tuesday, May 21

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Snohomish County Councilmembers Nate Nehring, left, and Jared Mead, speaking, take turns moderating a panel including Tulip Tribes Chairwoman Teri Gobin, Stanwood Mayor Sid Roberts and Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell during the Building Bridges Summit on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, at Western Washington University Everett in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Candidates, voters have campaign promises to make

Two county officials’ efforts to improve political discourse skills are expanding to youths and adults.

Ross Douthat: This trial isn’t going to cost Trump many voters

To most observers, a conviction will seem either a minor offense or an overreach of prosecution.

Kristof: Israel can abandon hope if it invades Rafah

Further deaths of civilians to get at Hamas is likely to create a new generation of Palestinian fighters.

Krugman: Trump only Exhibit A for the pettiness of the powerful

When wealth no longer satisfies, the powerful elite look for adulation, to the disadvantage of all others.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.