The Columbian editorial board, which opposed I-1366, now urges lawmakers to put the constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority for tax increases before the voters. The editorial looks at the options: put the measure on the ballot or cut the state sales tax from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent and see widespread spending cuts. We’d point out that there’s also the option of increasing other taxes to offset some of the sales tax revenues. Regardless, the Columbian says,
…lawmakers next year should hold their noses and place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. This is not an endorsement of a two-thirds requirement — such a decision will be left for another time. But it is an acknowledgement that the voters have told the Legislature that they would like the opportunity to vote on such a constitutional amendment or see a reduction in the sales tax. Approving a ballot measure would be the less odorous choice between those options.
The paper also notes the likely state Supreme Court challenge.
We would not be so presumptuous to suggest that the court should rule one way or another as a matter of political preference; if the measure is unconstitutional, then it’s unconstitutional, and that will be up to the determination of legal experts. But the court should undertake the issue and make a determination before lawmakers delve into the intricacies of implementing Initiative 1366.
The Everett Herald wonders about the mixed fiscal messages voters are sending.
Last year, the apparent message from voters was spend. Voters approved Initiative 1351, requiring that the state fund lower class sizes in public schools with a cost estimate of $5 billion through 2019. With 54 percent turnout, about 51 percent approved the initiative.
This year, the message was don’t spend, or at least don’t tax us any more to do so.
We suspect backers of I-1366 would respond that there’s no inconsistency. It’s possible to support smaller class sizes without raising taxes. Set priorities, adopt policies that encourage economic growth, and phase in the class size measure.
Yet, the Herald’s editorial wondering raises legitimate issues regarding the challenges of what has been called “ballot box budgeting.” The choices are binary – yea or nay – and without much appreciation of the budget context, of the effects of the voters’ decision on other fiscal priorities.
An early ruling from the state Supreme Court will help frame the 2016 legislative session and, possibly, shape the 2016 election. But the vagaries of ballot box budgeting can be expected to confound lawmakers and pundits for some time. The initiative process – the first power reserved by the people – guarantees it. And, for the most part, lawmakers and the public have managed to deal successfully with seemingly conflicting messages.