The Washington State Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of Initiative 1053 yesterday. The initiative imposes a supermajority vote in the state Legislature to raise revenues or close tax loopholes. The League of Education Voters (LEV), along with the Washington Education Association, parents, taxpayers and lawmakers are asking the court to rule that the supermajority requirement is unconstitutional.
“LEV was founded on the concept that Washington schools need to be fully funded in order to ensure that all kids reach their potential,” said Chris Korsmo, Chief Executive Officer of LEV. “This lawsuit is another important piece in making sure our kids have all the resources they need to get an excellent education. It’s also key to ensuring that legislators have all of their constitutionally protected powers at their disposal for making budget decisions.
The Court asked critical questions of both the plaintiffs and defendants, particularly on the standing of the case. In order to decide on the constitutionality of I-1053, the Court must first determine that the issue is theirs to determine based on the facts of the case. The plaintiffs including LEV, along with the governor argue that the issue should be determined by the Court.
Even to close the outdated tax loopholes, I-1053 requires a two-thirds vote. But the constitution sets the rules for the Legislature, and it requires a simple majority to raise taxes or close loopholes. As long as I-1053 goes unchallenged, a minority of legislators can block the will of the majority.
Part of the initiative requires a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the Legislature to raise revenue or modify tax preferences. LEV believes that the state constitution is clear that such measures require only a majority vote of the Legislature. The state’s constitution cannot be amended by statute, regardless of how that statute came into existence.
Watch the proceedings below.