Tim Eyman’s latest initiative, I-1366, seeks to put in place a 2/3 vote requirement for legislators to raise taxes. If that stirs up feelings of déjà vu, it should. Washington voters have enacted 2/3 rules five separate times. The last two 2/3 initiatives, in 2010 and 2012, both passed with 64% of the vote.
Each time, Democratic lawmakers either fought the 2/3 rule in court or repealed the initiatives after two years. After declining several times to rule on the matter, in 2013 the state Supreme Court ruled that 2/3 requirements for legislative tax increases violate the state constitution.
New way to attack the question
The court’s ruling means the only way to enact a 2/3 rule is through a constitutional amendment. In Washington, those can only originate from the Legislature, not a ballot measure, and the legislative vote must be by 2/3 in each chamber. Democratic legislators would never let a constitutional amendment on the 2/3 rule advance.
I-1366 utilizes a novel approach to force action on a constitutional amendment. If passed, the initiative would cut the state sales tax (currently at 6.5 cents per dollar) by a penny if legislators do not send a 2/3 amendment to the voters.
From a legal perspective, I-1366 may not fly, and it would no doubt be immediately challenged in court (and is, in fact, being challenged already). It is one more opportunity for Washington voters to express their preference for 2/3 rules, which is always tricky for Democratic legislators from swing districts to navigate.
History of voter-enacted 2/3 rules