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Judge Rules Eyman's Anti-Tax Measure Unconstitutional; Supreme Court Appeal Next

Elaine Thompson
King County Superior Court Judge William Downing addresses the court during a hearing on the legality of Tim Eyman's latest anti-tax measure in King County Superior Court Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Seattle.

The Washington Supreme Court will likely decide the fate of a voter-approved tax-limiting measure. A judge in King County ruled Thursday that Initiative 1366, approved in November, is unconstitutional.

The next step is an appeal. The Attorney General’s office is required to defend initiatives approved by the public. As a result, it will appeal the lower court ruling to the state Supreme Court and likely ask for expedited review.

The King County judge found I-1366 unconstitutional on two fronts: first, that it violates the single subject rule for initiatives. Second, that the initiative seeks to amend the state constitution when such efforts must be initiated by the legislature.

I-1366 sought to cut the state sales tax by one percent in April if lawmakers didn’t send a constitutional amendment to voters requiring a supermajority vote of the legislature for tax hikes.

The measure was sponsored by anti-tax activist Tim Eyman as his answer to a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that found a two-thirds requirement for tax hikes violates the state constitution.

“I think the best leverage we have is our willingness to go to the ballot box again if we have to with an initiative that makes it tougher to raise taxes,” Eyman said. “But we’re always hopeful that the legislature will realize that six times ought to be enough, it shouldn’t take a seventh vote for them to get that message.”

Eyman referred to past votes in Washington for a super majority threshold for taxes. He is already preparing a 2016 tax-limiting measure and said he will proceed with that if lawmakers don’t send voters a two-thirds constitutional amendment.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.