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Supermajority Law Struck Down, Time to Move Forward

Posted by Andy Nicholas at Feb 28, 2013 10:30 PM |

Today’s State Supreme Court ruling struck down the onerous supermajority requirement, that means policymakers can finally begin reversing the damage caused by the Great Recession.

The supermajority law contributed to years of deep cuts to schools, health care services, and other key economic investments.  Now it’s time to start rebuilding the state economy so it works for all Washingtonians.

But there are more hurdles ahead. Several proposals introduced in the State Senate would add the damaging supermajority law to the State Constitution, in order to sidestep the Court’s decision.  As we’ve said before, a Constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority is a bad idea – one that would further dampen Washington state’s already-fragile economic recovery.

Any attempt to reverse the Supreme Court’s reasoned judgment by putting a supermajority requirement into the State Constitution would only distract and hinder lawmakers from making investments that will create jobs and prepare workers to compete in the 21st century economy.

Until it was ruled unconstitutional today, the supermajority law prohibited tax increases without a two-thirds vote of the legislature or a public referendum vote. The law was undemocratic, giving a small minority of ideologically driven lawmakers the ability to overrule the majority.  This small minority used this law to block important investments in schools, health care, and other priorities, resulting in $10.6 billion in cuts over the past five years.

As the Court stated in its ruling:

 “The Supermajority Requirement unconstitutionally amends the constitution by imposing a two-thirds vote requirement for tax legislation. More importantly, the Supermajority Requirement substantially alters our system of government, thus enabling a tyranny of the minority.”

This “tyranny of the minority” has done great harm to our state. During the worst part of the Great Recession, as the tax resources that support investments in education, health care, and public safety dropped at a historically unprecedented rate, the supermajority law made it impossible for policymakers to respond in a fiscally responsible manner with a balanced approach of new revenue and cuts.  Instead, lawmakers cut billions from these and other important public services. As our analysis has shown, these cuts deepened and prolonged the recession in Washington state and cost thousands of jobs. 

The supermajority law has done great damage to our ability to make important investments in Washington state’s future. Now that chapter is over. It’s time for a new one to begin. Let’s come together and begin creating jobs and building a prosperous future for all Washingtonians.

Read the statement our Executive Director Remy Trupin issued this morning on the Court's ruling.

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  • Policy Analyst Elena Hernandez's testimony (at the 23:23 minute mark) on the House Bill that would take a two-generation approach to preventing poverty 
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