The Secretary of State’s Office has certified I-1185 for the November ballot. If approved by voters, I-1185 will mark the fifth time in the last 20 years that voters have adopted the requirement for tax increases to receive a supermajority vote or voter approval.

Here is the track record for the state 2/3 vote requirement for taxes policy at the ballot:

  • 2010: I-1053 – Required 2/3 vote or voter approval for tax increases (64% yes)
  • 2007: I-960 – Required 2/3 vote or voter approval for tax increases (51% yes)
  • 1998: R-49 – Reaffirmed provisions of 1993 I-601 (57% yes)
  • 1993: I-601 – Required 2/3 vote for tax increases (51% yes)

Voters also adopted I-695 in 1999 to require voter approval of all tax increases (56% yes).

Despite numerous legislative amendments to the section of law (Revised Code of Washington 43.135) containing the two-thirds vote requirement, the Legislature has never fully repealed the voter-passed mandate that tax increases require a two-thirds vote.

In fact, in 2006 the Legislature shortened its own 2005 suspension and voted explicitly to reinstate the two-thirds vote requirement so its suspension ended a year sooner than it would have otherwise (SB 6896). This bill was supported only by Democrats (the bill primarily dealt with increasing the spending limit but an amendment was adopted reinstating the 2/3 vote requirement a year early).

A recent legal ruling issued by King County Superior Court on the constitutionality of the supermajority vote requirement for tax increases will be considered by the state Supreme Court sometime this year. The three previous opportunities the Supreme Court has had to rule on this question it dismissed the challenge for lack of proper standing.

While the state Supreme Court considers this issue voters could take the opportunity to treat I-1185 as a referendum on the 2/3 requirement for tax increases to help encourage the Legislature to put the issue on the ballot as a constitutional amendment.

At the local level, the Pierce County Council recently voted to send voters a charter amendment to require a supermajority vote of council members for local tax increases (local tax increases are not currently subject to the 2/3 vote requirement in state law).


[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog]