State will appeal judge's ruling against voter-approved I-1053

OLYMPIA - The Washington State Attorney General's office says it will continue to defend against a lawsuit challenging the state's voter-approved law requiring a supermajority vote by legislators to raise taxes and voter approval of tax increases that exceed the state spending limit, known as Initiative 1053.

King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller yesterday (Wednesday) ruled that Initiative1053, approved by the voters in 2010, is unconstitutional.

The court held that the supermajority and voter approval provisions restrict the Legislature's constitutional authority to raise taxes.

"We thank Superior Court Judge Heller for his thoughtful consideration of this matter," said Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna.

He said, "However, we will appeal this decision because we believe these voter-enacted laws are constitutional, and we are determined to defend the will of the voters, just as we defend laws passed by the Legislature. Several times, voters have sent a clear and consistent message about tax increases, and it's within their legal rights to do so."

Paul Lawrence of the Pacifica Law Group, lead counsel for the plaintiffs had a different take on Heller's ruling.

He said, "This is a victory for the Constitution. The Constitution established the fundamental rules for how our government works. The framers considered what type of laws require a super majority vote for passage. Taxes were not identified as requiring a super majority vote."

League of Education Voters Chief Executive Officer Chris Korsmo said, "This lawsuit is another important piece in making sure our kids have all the resources they need to get an excellent education."

WEA President Mary Lindquist agreed, stating she believes Heller's ruling is a victory for the children of Washington state.

"If it is upheld, this ruling will pave the way for the Legislature to fully fund K-12 public schools as mandated by the Supreme Court's McCleary decision and the state Constitution," she said.

The court denied the state's motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by several state legislators, the Washington Education Association (WEA) and the League of Education Voters. The Attorney General's office will file an appeal to the Washington State Supreme Court.

"We believe that this suit is not appropriate for judges to resolve, in part because the Legislature has not chosen to enact a tax increase by majority vote. We also believe the challenged laws are well within the authority of Washington's citizens to enact. We're optimistic that we and the voters will ultimately succeed," said McKenna.

The "two-thirds requirement" was approved by voters in 1993, 1998, 2007 and 2010. The Legislature also has re-enacted the two-thirds requirement and referendum provision.


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