‘Ruling Class’ Beats Voters – Thanks to Washington Supreme Court

Feb. 28, 2013

“The Ruling Class — now, even the deviancy of the old nobility is becoming more commonplace…as once they were given land by the sovereign, upon which to live well…now they are given government pensions and benefits.”

-frequent Biz Coach reader

Washington state businesspeople and consumers, alike, have been dealt a blow by the state Supreme Court. In a 6-3 ruling, the court threw out the voter-approved mandate requiring a two-thirds legislative vote in order for lawmakers to raise taxes.

The court dubiously ruled such voter-approved initiatives are unconstitutional. The ruling followed a lawsuit by left-leaning Democrats and groups opposing the will of the taxpayers. So, the “ruling class” won.

Washington’s “ruling class” — including many lawmakers, bureaucrats and public employee unions — marches forward with deficit spending and lucrative pensions for state workers. Washington state’s unfunded pension liability is $52 billion, according to Retirement Benefit Solutions.

The two-thirds requirement was passed by voters to require the Legislature to honor voters’ wishes in five elections:

  • 1993
  • 1998
  • 2007
  • 2010
  • 2012

But each time the Legislature circumvented the voter-approved wishes. Under state law – if legislators wait two years – they can violate the will of the people by changing the initiatives with only a majority vote.

“Our holding today is not a judgment on the wisdom of requiring a supermajority for the passage of tax legislation,” the majority opinion said.

“Such judgment is left to the legislative branch of our government. Should the people and the legislature still wish to require a supermajority vote for tax legislation, they must do so through constitutional amendment, not through legislation,” added the majority opinion.

The bad news: So once again, tax increases can be imposed by a single vote of the Legislature’s two bodies, the House and Senate, and a signature by the governor.

Some good news

A silver lining: The state Senate is controlled by Republicans. They’re on record – vowing to oppose tax increases.

The GOP took charge of the Senate, thanks to two Democrats: Tom, D-Medina, and Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch. This year, they began caucusing with the Republicans.

Generally, Democrats are looking forward to raising taxes according to published reports. As a result of too-much spending, Washington perennially has a budget deficit. This year, the deficit is $1 billion.

Think tank’s permanent solution

“For the past 20 years the voters have consistently made clear they want their lawmakers to reach a broad consensus on the need to raise taxes or include the voters directly on the decision,” said Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center (WPC), www.washingtonpolicy.org.

“Today, the Supreme Court invalidated this taxpayer protection but did not negate the fact that on five separate occasions the voters have demanded this requirement most recently with statewide passage of I-1185 with a 64 percent vote and approval in 44 of the state’s 49 legislative districts,” he added.

“With voters and lawmakers repeatedly enacting the supermajority vote for taxes requirement over the past 20 years, what could be more representative of the public will than allowing a vote of the people on a constitutional amendment such as SJR 8205 to help resolve this debate once and for all?” he asked.

“There is nothing for lawmakers to fear by sending SJR 8205 to the voters but the will of the people,” he asserted.

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver and Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, in joint resolutions, are calling for the state’s constitution to be amended – to stop the chicanery and violation of voter wishes. The amendment would not allow legislators to shelve the law in order to impose tax increases.


The WPC’s advocacy for a constitutional amendment makes sense.

In addition, here’s a common-sense question: How long will voters allow the “ruling class” lawmakers to stay in power?

From the Coach’s Corner, if you want to track the state Legislature’s bills, visit: washingtonvotes.org.

“The problem with political jokes is they get elected.”

-Henry Cate VII


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

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Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.