In a narrow 26-23 vote that should set off red lights for fiscal conservatives, Washington Senate Democrats voted to lower barriers to tax increases. By suspending the voter-passed Initiative 960, which requires all tax increases to pass with a two-thirds majority, increasing Washington’s taxes will be far easier until July 2011, when the suspension ends.
The repercussions of suspending Initiative 960 through the passage of SB6843 are enormous as simple majorities would be able to pass any tax increases. What this effectively means is a more powerful, more intrusive government that can take money from your wallet with greater ease. With the suspension of I-960, in the coming months Washingtonians will face a barrage of proposed tax increases, from a 1% sales tax hike to increased cigarette taxes.
In testimony before Senate Ways and Means Committee, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation’s Bob Williams commented on the government’s proposal to use the bill as a means to combat an economic downturn:
Just a little over two years ago the voters passed I-960 when our economy was booming. By making it harder to raise taxes, they were asking you to limit spending. You ignored them and spent $1.3 billion more than the revenue  forecast. If you couldn’t find a way to balance the budget at a time when the state took in record high revenues, as it did in 2007, it certainly is no surprise that you are unable to balance the budget today.
This is clearly a dangerous ability for the Washington legislature to possess, especially in times when some have called for tax increases that would destroy jobs and reduce the ability of the market to recover. Furthermore, it sends a message to the entire state government: Spend away, because we can always raise taxes.
Wonder who voted to make raising taxes easier? Democrats. Not a single Republican voted to suspend I-960 and only Democrats voted in favor of suspension. Let’s now take a look beneath the surface as to why Democrats voted for this bill. There are currently thirty-one Democrat state senators. The entire Washington state legislature is comprised of forty-nine individuals. Thus Democrats possess 63% of the Senate vote. Accordingly, Democrats are just shy of being able to push tax increases without bipartisan support.  Furthermore, lowering the requirement would allow some Democrats to vote against tax hikes to protect themselves against accountability, in the same way that five Democrats were able to vote against suspending I-960.
Voters have approved a two-thirds requirement three times (1993, 1998, 2007) and are clearly on record demonstrating that they do not want to rely on a simple majority requirement tax policy decisions. The state senate should respect this and keep I-960 in effect.
Click here to view a list of the state senators who voted for and opposed the bill.
Showing utter ineptitude, the Senate is claiming it slipped up and approved the wrong version of the bill. According to The Olympian, “The new vote would completely suspend Initiative 960, including its requirement for nonbinding or advisory votes for any tax increases as well as publication of all tax increases approved and who voted for them.” As a result, the new version of the bill will be voted on (and likely approved) then passed to the state house and governor.

photo credit: Phillip Ingham