Simple majority for taxes doesn’t mean legislators have a blank check | Editorial
March 8, 2013 · Updated 3:22 PM
The state Supreme Court made the right call last when it ruled that the Legislature can pass a tax increase with only a majority vote. Let’s hope lawmakers don’t run am0k with this power.
The state had lived with that simple majority idea for years until Tim Eyman pushed his initiative mandating a two-thirds approval by the House and Senate to raise taxes. Voters liked the idea and said so several times at the polls.
We did, too, but not because we’re anti-tax.
While a two-thirds requirement to raise taxes was burdensome, it did force the Legislature to set priorities for what became a more and more limited pot of money. That made for tough decisions, but more responsible government.
Too often a combination of a simple majority to raise taxes and essentially one-party control resulted in lawmakers caving in to the special interests of their supporters. They got re-elected, but at a higher and higher cost to the taxpayer.
The two-thirds requirement gave lawmakers an easy out when state workers, for example, sought higher wages and more benefits. Suddenly, the push for a fatter paycheck had to compete with the needs of the poor for lifesaving food and medicine.
Lawmakers still need that discipline.
The fact that raising taxes is now easier doesn’t mean that it should be the first choice in balancing budgets. We still expect legislators to be prudent with the public purse.
The good news is a Legislature split between Democrats in control of the House and a majority Republican coalition in the Senate should keep the brakes on taxes this session.
Voters have shown over several elections they want taxes kept under control. Legislators should remember while it only takes a simple majority to raise taxes, that’s also the same percent needed to sweep them out of office.