Voter initiatives have been found to be unconstitutional in the past, but voters usually get to weigh in before the courts intervene. Several plaintiffs, including King County Elections Director Sherrill Huff, filed suit to block Initiative 1366 from appearing on the general election ballot.
The Tim Eyman-led measure would direct the Legislature to send a constitutional amendment to the ballot. If the Legislature refused, the state’s sales tax take would be reduced from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent, which in the near term would mean a loss of $2.8 billion per biennium, according to John Stang’s Crosscut piece.
The constitutional amendment Eyman wants would require a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate to approve any tax increase. Voters have approved the two-thirds requirement before, but most recently the court struck down one initiative that created a constitutional amendment, saying those have to start in the Legislature.
Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, issued a response today urging the court to let the ballot measure go on the November ballot. She took no stand on the initiative itself, but said voters should weigh in.
“The subject matter of I-1366 is not outside the scope of the people’s initiative power, and the courts have made it a practice to avoid pre-election review except in ‘limited and rare circumstances’ that do not apply here,” Wyman said in a statement.
The lawsuit argues that the initiative’s intent, despite its path to get there, is to amend the constitution. The argument against allowing it on the ballot relates to the cost to taxpayers by having it on the ballot across the state and the usurpation of power normally left to the Legislature to begin a constitutional process.
“In the absence of an injunction, Ms. Huff, Ms. Hall and the taxpayer Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm from incurring the expense of an invalid and needless election as well as the harm caused to all taxpayers by unlawful government action,” the plaintiff’s complaint argues. “Additionally, in the absence of an injunction, the Legislator Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm to their constitutional rights under Article XXIII as representatives of the sole body that can lawfully initiate the constitutional amendment process.”
The case will go before King County Superior Court Judge Dean Lum at 10 a.m. Friday.
Huff was formerly the Kitsap County Auditor for eight years between 1979 and 1986 and Bremerton’s deputy mayor.
Eyman was in Bremerton in May 2014 talking about the initiative.
Here’s the audio.