Questions & Answers

Q: Proponents of 1053 say that the people of Washington have voted three times to make it tougher to raise taxes. Is this true?

A: No. Only two initiatives setting a two-thirds requirement have been approved at the ballot: I-601 in 1993 and I-960 in 2007. Each initiative passed only narrowly, 51% to 48%. The difference between “yes” and “no” was less than forty thousand votes in both 1993 and 2007. Both 1993 and 2007 were off-year elections in which fewer voters participated.

Q: Is requiring a two-thirds vote for revenue increases common?

A: No. Proponents point out that fifteen other states do, but fifteen is only slightly more than a fourth of our nation’s fifty states. Almost three-fourths of states do not operate under the undemocratic rules that I-1053’s proponents want. All the other states that have the two-thirds requirement have it in their constitutions, like California.

Q: Proponents of 1053 claim their measure will “encourage bipartisan solutions to our state’s budget problems”. Is this true?

A: No! It will do just the opposite: create endless partisan gridlock and dysfunction. We have seen this in California… in fact, it’s happening right now! Their Legislature was supposed to produce a budget by July 1st. But they failed. It doesn’t look like California will even have a budget until after the November election. The chaos down there is a taste of what we can expect under 1053.

Q: If 1053 will result in partisan gridlock, then why are proponents saying the opposite? What do they gain from deceiving the voters?

They benefit if there’s gridlock. Gridlock is their goal. Gridlock preserves the status quo, to the detriment of our communities. Our tax code is currently riddled with outdated, unneeded tax loopholes and exemptions that benefit narrow interests. Like big oil companies. Or Wall Street banks. I-1053 keeps our tax code broken and makes it effectively impossible to accomplish any reform. That’s good for out of state corporations like BP and Bank of America, but bad for us.

Q: You say that I-1053, like Initiatives 960 and 601 before it, is unconstitutional. Did the Supreme Court ever rule on the constitutionality of those measures?

A: No. One legal challenge was brought against I-601 (Walker v. Munro) and two against I-960 (Futurewise v. Reed, Brown v. Owen). All three cases were dismissed on technicalities. Washington’s Supreme Court has never ruled on the constitutionality of a two-thirds requirement for the passage of legislation. We believe any such requirement directly conflicts with Article II, Section 22 of the Constitution.

QProponents of 1053 say it is constitutional because Article II, Section 22 sets a majority vote as only the minimum standard for the passage of legislation. Why is requiring a higher standard unconstitutional?

A: Because it changes the meaning of the Constitution. Article I, Section 29 says: “The provisions of this Constitution are mandatory, unless by express words they are declared to be otherwise.” Nowhere in the Constitution is permission expressly given to either the Legislature or the people to enact laws setting a different standard for actions than what the Constitution defines. For instance, the Constitution requires that an amendment to itself receive support from two-thirds of each house of the Legislature and a majority vote of the people. By proponents’ logic, an initiative requiring a nine-tenths vote to pass a constitutional amendment would be constitutional, because it merely sets a higher standard and not a lower one. This argument makes absolutely no sense. The standards required by the Constitution are both a floor and a ceiling. Alaska’s Supreme Court has interpreted a nearly identical provision in their Constitution in this way.

Q: Doesn’t our Constitution require a two-thirds vote for some actions?

A: Yes. There are twenty places in the Washington State Constitution where a supermajority is required for an action, including the passage of a constitutional amendment and the conviction of an impeached official. The Framers were careful to only require supermajorities in specific instances, so that minority rights could be protected. Democracy requires harmony between majority rule and minority rights. The Framers explicitly used the word “majority” in Article II, Section 22 to establish that majority rule must decide the fate of legislation. If the Framers had wanted to permit a minority of lawmakers to effectively veto a bill in some circumstances, they would have spelled out when this was acceptable.

Q: How did the founding fathers define majority rule?

A: As fifty percent plus one. No more. No less. The founding fathers were opposed to the concept of requiring supermajority votes to transact the people’s business. They considered majority rule essential to representative democracy. In The Federalist No. 22, Alexander Hamilton writes:

[W]hat at first sight may seem a remedy, is, in reality, a poison. To give a minority a negative upon the majority (which is always the case where more than a majority is requisite to a decision), is, in its tendency, to subject the sense of the greater number to that of the lesser. Congress, from the nonattendance of a few States, have been frequently in the situation of a Polish diet, where a single VOTE has been sufficient to put a stop to all their movements.

Hamilton adds:

If a pertinacious minority can control the opinion of a majority, respecting the best mode of conducting it, the majority, in order that something may be done, must conform to the views of the minority; and thus the sense of the smaller number will overrule that of the greater, and give a tone to the national proceedings. Hence, tedious delays; continual negotiation and intrigue; contemptible compromises of the public good.

James Madison concurs in The Federalist No. 58, explaining why the United States Constitution does not require more than a majority for a quorum:

It has been said that more than a majority ought to have been required for a quorum; and in particular cases, if not in all, more than a majority of a quorum for a decision. That some advantages might have resulted from such a precaution, cannot be denied. It might have been an additional shield to some particular interests, and another obstacle generally to hasty and partial measures. But these considerations are outweighed by the inconveniences in the opposite scale. In all cases where justice or the general good might require new laws to be passed, or active measures to be pursued, the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule: the power would be transferred to the minority.

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