Washington Supreme Court Considers Supermajority Tax Issue


An appeal of a lower court decision that held unconstitutional a state law requiring a two-thirds majority vote for the legislature to raise taxes was argued before the Washington Supreme Court last week. The Court’s decision in League of Education Voters v. State could have significant implications for the state’s compliance with an earlier court order in a school funding case.

In January 2012, in McCleary v. State, the court affirmed “basic education” as constitutionally guaranteed, and ordered the state to fully fund the system. In September, the Supreme Court, which retained jurisdiction in the McCleary case until 2018, received the first report from the legislative committee charged with informing the court of its compliance progress. The report claimed that progress was slow but that legislators were working on increasing funding.

Some legislators estimate that implementing an adequate public education system will cost between $3 billion and $4 billion; therefore, to provide the necessary funding, the state either needs to raise more revenues through taxes and increased fees, promote greater cost effectiveness and cost efficiency, or, as state representative Jaime Pedersen describes it, “cut the heck out of everything else” (i.e. healthcare, disability payments, state universities, parks). The outcome of the supermajority tax requirement suit, filed by two education nonprofit organizations and a group of legislators, clearly would affect the legislature’s ability to raise additional revenues for education.

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