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Originally published January 9, 2012 at 3:46 PM | Page modified January 9, 2012 at 7:51 PM

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Corrected version

Gov. Gregoire should not challenge two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire should reconsider her decision to challenge the voter-approved law that imposes a requirement that any tax increases have a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or a majority vote of the people.

Seattle Times Editorial


GOV. Chris Gregoire should reconsider her ill-chosen decision to push the Washington Supreme Court to decide on the two-thirds rule for raising taxes.

Time and again over the past 20 years, the voters of Washington have approved the rule that the Legislature needs a two-thirds vote of both houses or a vote of the people to raise taxes. Legislators resent this limit on their power and have suspended it several times. Voters keep re-enacting it. The last time was Tim Eyman's Initiative 1053, in November 2010.

In recent years, no measure of state policy has been validated by the people of Washington as many times as this: Taxes require two-thirds of both houses or a vote of the people.

Attorney General Rob McKenna has defended the two-thirds threshold as constitutional, and will argue that the court does not need to rule on it. Gregoire, a defendant, wants a ruling and has an outside attorney to petition for one. She says she is not taking a position on whether two-thirds is constitutional, but her action could help to kill it.

In our view, it is not clear whether the two-thirds rule is permitted by the constitution. The judges would be making new law and could go either way. Why ask? When asked before, they dodged the question. Why not respect their answer?

Recall that as an initiative, the two-thirds rule binds the Legislature for only two years, because after that any initiative may be changed by a simple majority. I-1053 is time-limited, just as Initiative 960 was before that.

If I-1053 is struck down, there will be a public drive to put the two-thirds rule in the constitution, so that it is no longer time-limited. The drive will be led by the Republicans. Is that what Gregoire wants?

The original version of this editorial suggested the governor was bypassing the attorney general. As a defendant she has a different view and has outside counsel to represent her.