State plan would put anti-tax rule in Constitution

SEATTLE (AP) - An anti-tax rule previously approved by Washington voters would be enshrined in the state Constitution under a proposal considered Tuesday in the state Senate.

A Senate committee held a public hearing on a constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to raise taxes. Lawmakers are exploring the issue a year after the state Supreme Court found a voter-approved version of the two-thirds rule to be unconstitutional.

Initiative promoter Tim Eyman, who previously brought the issue before voters, said the public has a right to consider the amendment after approving the tax rule multiple times at the ballot.

"All you're doing is letting the people make the decision," Eyman told lawmakers.

Social services lobbyist Nick Federici said a constitutional amendment is an excessive approach. He said Olympia hasn't been approving runaway taxes and that the rule would make it difficult for lawmakers to meet funding responsibilities or respond to sudden changes.

Federici said that the Legislature should be able to approve taxes with a simple majority, even though voters have approved the two-thirds requirement in the past.

"That doesn't necessarily make it good policy," Federici said.

The measure is sponsored by most of the Republicans in the Senate. Many Democrats oppose the amendment. Lawmakers didn't immediately vote on the issue Tuesday.

Eyman has been putting pressure on lawmakers. He has proposed a new ballot measure this year that would cut billions of dollars from the state budget unless the Legislature moves forward with the constitutional amendment. Each year, that measure would cost the state about $1 billion in revenue.