Opinion editorial by Rep. Walsh: We need better protections for taxpayers

By Rep. Maureen Walsh

 

The people have stated five times in the last 20 years with the initiative process that they want the Legislature to have a high bar to raise taxes. Just three months ago, 72 percent of the 16th District supported these taxpayer protections. Each time it was voted on, support grew for the two-thirds vote requirement to increase taxes in the Legislature. And each time, the majority party overturned and ignored the will of the people.

Recently, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to require a two-thirds vote, rather than a simple majority vote. However, the Court also gave us a remedy by way of passing a constitutional amendment. In the 13 other states in our country that require a two-thirds vote to increase taxes, they all have done so with a constitutional amendment. I’m supporting House Joint Resolution 4206 to do just that – and send this issue to the voters for their approval, once and for all.

Meanwhile, Democrats are proposing a plethora of tax increases that could become a reality if we don’t pass this constitutional amendment. Those bills include: extending the temporary tax on beer, creating a new fuel excise tax, and imposing an income tax on high earners, which voters just rejected in November. These tax increases amount to more than $4.1 billion over six years.

Our state budget is currently $32 billion. We have more than enough to amply fund the core priorities of the state: education, public safety, and caring for the most vulnerable. We should not ask struggling small businesses and hardworking people to pay more. The one thing I hear consistently from constituents, from Prosser to Dayton, is that they cannot afford to pay more in taxes. Families are forced to live within their means, and in this economy, are really struggling.  The state must live within the means currently provided by taxpayers.

As your representative, I want you to know I have fought and will continue to fight for you and your hard-earned dollars. In early February, I joined my House Republican colleagues to propose a change to the rules of conduct we follow in the House to include the two-thirds requirement to raise taxes. This was perfectly legal and would have withstood the recent court ruling. Unfortunately, the proposal was rejected by the majority party.  I encourage you to contact other legislators at (800) 562-6000 and encourage them to join me in supporting House Joint Resolution 4206 to provide permanent protections for taxpayers.

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Rep. Maureen Walsh represents the 16th Legislative District and lives in Walla Walla. You can contact her by calling (509) 786-7836 or e-mailing maureen.walsh@leg.wa.gov. The 2013 regular session is scheduled to run through April 28.