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Washington Senate Adopts Two-Thirds Rule For New Taxes

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Austin Jenkins
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The formal ceremony ushering in the new session of the Washington legislature quickly gave way to partisan fireworks.

Gov. Jay Inslee wants a new capital gains tax to help fund schools and other priorities. But Republicans in the state Senate voted Monday to make it harder to get a tax proposal like that through the legislature.

No sooner had the gavel fallen than the partisan fights began. Majority Republicans proposed a change to the rules of the Washington Senate. All new forms of taxation would require a two-thirds vote before they were brought to the floor for final passage.

Democrat Andy Billig said the rule would make it harder to govern from the middle in a sharply divided legislature.

“This set of rules is a recipe for gridlock,” he said.

Republican Michael Baumgartner dismissed that suggestion.

“Even this rule before you is a sign of compromise,” Baumgartner said. “Some of us wish it had applied to all taxes.”

A spokesman for Governor Inslee said the new rule is not a “huge game changer” and notes it could be repealed.

There is an exemption to the new Senate rule. A supermajority vote would not be required for a new tax if there’s a referendum clause to allow a public vote on the issue.

In 2013, the Washington Supreme Court tossed out a voter-approved supermajority requirement for tax hikes.  

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.
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