House Democrats refuse to say whether they will respect the will of the people, I-960

House Republicans press for answers, taxpayer protection


House Republicans are asking House Speaker Frank Chopp to rule on whether the Washington State House of Representatives can repeal an established tax exemption with a simple majority vote. They believe it should take a two-thirds vote, as outlined by voter-approved Initiative 960. Speaker Pro Tempore Jeff Morris ducked the underlying question in the following exchange with Republican House Floor Leader Doug Ericksen on the House floor today:

Rep. Ericksen: “Mr. Speaker, I am considering having an amendment drafted to one of the bills on today’s second reading calendar — House Bill 1504. But in order to draft the amendment I need to find out if a bill, such as House Bill 1504, which removes a tax exemption, will be considered to have ‘raised taxes’ as that term is defined in Initiative Measure 960. I would point specifically, Mr. Speaker, to how the term ‘raises taxes’ is defined in RCW 43.135.035 Section 6 as meaning any action or combination of actions by the Legislature that increases state tax revenue deposited in any fund, budget or account, regardless of whether revenues are deposited into the general fund. As currently drafted, Mr. Speaker, does HB 1504 require a two-thirds vote of the full House to pass?”

Rep. Morris: “The Speaker would like to rule that because we do not have a final question before the body, which would be on third reading and final passage, the ruling would have to be speculative in nature. The Speaker does not issue advisory opinions or speculative opinions on bills before they reach a final question before the body. Because your motion is not one that is timely with the final consideration of the bill, it is out of order. Your point is not well taken.” 

House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt responded to today’s development with:

“Any action by the Legislature that would require someone to pay more of their money to state government is a tax increase and should require a two-thirds majority of the Legislature to be passed into law. We think the voters were clear about that when they approved Initiative 960. The citizens wanted protection from unnecessary tax hikes being enacted at the whim of the majority party,” said DeBolt, R-Chehalis. “It’s not entirely clear if the majority intends to abide by the voter-approved safeguards against higher taxes. Several Democrat tax increases are being proposed, and we Republicans are standing firm in our commitment to balance the state budget without placing any additional burdens on the citizens of our state.”

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Washington State House Republican Communications