Opinion

Supreme tax logic

From the editorial board

Anti-tax activist Tim Eyman looks on from the gallery during a hearing on the legality of Initiative 1366 in King County Superior Court in January. Eyman lost in that courtroom, and now again before the state Supreme Court.
Anti-tax activist Tim Eyman looks on from the gallery during a hearing on the legality of Initiative 1366 in King County Superior Court in January. Eyman lost in that courtroom, and now again before the state Supreme Court. AP file photo

It should surprise nobody, least of all Tim Eyman, that the Washington Supreme Court thwarted his latest attempt to bar the door on raising taxes.

All nine justices agreed in a ruling Thursday that Initiative 1366, approved by state voters last fall, violates the Washington Constitution. If they split on anything, it was on the number of different violations.

But one finding of unconstitutionality is all it takes to kill a voter initiative, and in this case it was Eyman’s familiar tactic of trying to do too many things. Article II, Section 19 says that no legislative proposal “may embrace more than one subject.” What this initiative tried to do was more like a furtive hug of multiple subjects, and that’s what made it particularly insidious.

I-1366 demanded that legislators this year forward a constitutional amendment to the ballot requiring two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval anytime lawmakers want to raise taxes. If the Legislature didn’t agree to do so (which it didn’t), the state sales tax would automatically drop from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent.

The high court wouldn’t endorse Eyman’s experimental brew of anti-tax elements, where one would trigger the other. And that’s a relief, because the consequences of this multi-drug cocktail would have devastated schools and other essential parts of the state budget.

Eyman is right about one thing: Oft-scorned voters are welcome to unseat Democrats who refused to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. They can even unseat three Supreme Court justices up for election this year.

But make no mistake: Lawmakers headed back to Olympia next year to fix a billion-dollar education problem are breathing easier today. At least the ones living in the real world are.

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