Early returns in Washington state show that voters approved Initiative 1366 by a margin of 54% to 46%, requiring a reduction in the state sales tax or the referral of a constitutional amendment to the ballot that requires a two-thirds legislative or public vote to impose any future tax hikes. The legislature has until April 15, 2016 to decide which will happen. At that point, the sales tax will automatically be reduced from 6.5% to 5.5% unless the legislature sends a Constitutional amendment to the ballot, requiring a two-thirds super majority for future tax hikes. The state’s Office of Financial Management estimates that a one percent sales tax reduction would result in a $1 billion annual tax cut for taxpayers.
“Gov. Jay Inslee lied to voters to get elected in 2012, saying he wouldn’t raise taxes. After his massive multi-billion job-killing tax hike proposals this year, voters again demonstrated that they were no longer going to trust Democrats to keep them safe from tax hikes, big government, and overspending, said ATR president Grover Norquist. “This is a huge win for Blue State taxpayers. The increasing popularity of supermajority requirements for tax hikes should send a strong message that tax hikes are toxic to a bipartisan majority of voters.”
As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer pointed out, “The voters have on five occasions endorsed the requirement for a two-thirds ‘super majority’ in both the House and Senate for tax increases.” A two-thirds requirement for tax hikes in the legislature was last approved by voters in 2010 by a 64-36 margin but was ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court in 2013 on the basis that only a majority is required for legislation. Washington Democrats filed the lawsuit leading to that ruling.
In their endorsement of the initiative, the Post-Intelligencer continued, “Gov. Jay Inslee was elected in 2012 on a [verbal] no-new-taxes pledge, yet Inslee went to the Legislature this year with a proposed capital gains tax and a polluters-pay tax… I-1366 would be the taxpayers shield against runaway costs of government and those seeking to defy the will of the people.”
Tuesday’s passage of Initiative 1366 would change the Constitution to comply with that ruling, if the legislature does not simply allow for a reduction in the state sales tax.
Sixteen states require more than a simple majority to raise all or some taxes. In seven states, the constitution requires a supermajority vote of each house, plus the governor’s signature to enact any tax hike. Delaware, Mississippi, and Oregon require a three-fifths vote of each house; Arizona, California, Nevada, and Louisiana require a two-thirds vote of each house.