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    'Are you rich?' Pam Roach plays hardball on I-1185

    The Republican from Auburn wants to require a two-thirds majority in the state legislature in order to raise taxes. And she's happy to bully colleagues and citizens to get there.
    Pam Roach

    Pam Roach

    Senator Pam Roach’s, um, signature approach to lawmaking was on full display at last week’s public hearing on Initiative 1185. The Tim Eyman vehicle is the fifth initiative seeking to require a two-thirds majority in the Senate and House in order to raise taxes. The pro-business Washington Policy Center (WPC) had just given the Roach’s Senate Government Operations Committee — the Auburn Republican chairs it — a breakdown on how 1185 fared in each of the state’s 49 legislative districts last November. (Majorities in only five Seattle districts voted against the measure.) Roach was using the breakdown to taunt legislators and testifiers alike.

    Roach's committee heard pro and con testimony on two pieces of Roach legislation and a third one by Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver. All three (SJR 8200, SJR 8204 and SJR 8205) would set up a statewide ballot on whether the two-thirds rule should be put into the Washington Constitution. Washington's Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on whether the two-thirds majority rule is constitutional.

    After Jason Mercier of the WPC shared the voting tallies, Roach read off the percentages by which I-1185 had passed in the district of each committee member present on Thursday.

    Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle: "69 percent."
    Ann Rivers, R-La Center: "72 percent."
    Karen Fraser, D-Olympia: "Oooooh, only 54 percent."
    Steve Conway, D-Tacoma: "68 percent."
    Roach's own district: "73 percent."
    Benton's district: "72 percent."

    She then asked some of the testifiers which legislative districts they lived in, and proceeded to recite the winning percentage in those districts too.

    Roach: "I think this [breakdown] is really helpful . . . If you don't live in downtown Seattle, everyone else wants restrictions on government spending. We have a 'protect-the-citadel' mentality here in Olympia. I sure don't have it."

    Benton: "As a legislator and more as a citizen, I find it arrogant that the legislature slaps down the will of the people."

    On the pro-1185 side, the Washington Retail Association and the Association of Washington Businesses (AWB) support a constitutional, supermajority-for-taxes requirement. Amber Carter, representing the AWB, said the supermajority approach, part of the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) set of recommendations to state legislatures, would help create jobs. (ALEC is a think tank that writes prototype bills for conservative legislators across the United States.) Eighteen other states have such supermajority requirements, Carter added.

    Seven people testified against the supermajority concept, arguing that, if it were adopted, a minority in one legislative chamber could stop any tax measure.

    A supermajority requirement, said Nick Federici of the Our Economic Future Coalition, "essentially allows 17 legislators [in a 49-member Senate] to block something from moving forward."

    I-1185 opponent Remy Trupin of the liberal-leaning Washington State Budget and Policy Center warned that a supermajority requirement would allow corporations and the super-rich to rig the legislative system in their favor on tax issues. He also contended that Washington's bond rating could drop as Wall Street becomes leery about the state's ability to raise money.

    Bill Lyne, speaking for a university faculty union and the Washington Education Association, noted that the supermajority requirement would hamper the state's ability to deal with a 2012 Washington Supreme Court ruling, which accuses the state of unconstitutionally underfunding education.

    Roach (interrupting): "The voters were aware of that issue, of all of this. Are voters not very smart?"

    She asks Lyne which legislative district he lives in. "Forty-second," he replies.

    Roach, referring once again to the WPC's voting breakdown: "Sixty-six percent of the people living around you voted for I-1885 . . . It's kind of class warfare."

    Lyne murmers that sometimes people — even wealthy people — vote against their best interests.

    Roach (jumping in): "Are you rich?"

    Lyne: "No"

    Roach: "How can you speak for rich people?"

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    Posted Tue, Feb 12, 8:51 a.m. Inappropriate

    My casual understanding is that California is in so much trouble partly because they have a super majority law already and have a difficult time getting something passed. Super majority in my mind works both ways in that you may have difficulty raising income to pay for a need but in the reverse you could also have a problem lowering a tax or funding. Does that ever happen? We should be so lucky as to find out someday.

    Posted Tue, Feb 12, 2:50 p.m. Inappropriate

    California has plenty of high taxes. Their real problem is the same one that confronts Washington: Government has lost its focus on its key responsibilities and services. If you try to make government the font of all largess in society, you eventually run out of money to fund it. Even raising tax rates to 110% can never capture more than 100% of the money. Unfortunately, there are many in Olympia who feel that California's is a system to be emulated.

    And to address the article directly, just because Roach may be an odious person, it doesn't mean that she's incapable of doing some good. After all, as the old saying goes, Mussolini made the trains run on time. Whether the positive benefit is worth suffering the negative qualities of the proponent is left as an exercise for the student.


    Posted Tue, Feb 12, 4:22 p.m. Inappropriate

    There you go again, regurgitating libertarian talking points without a shred of supporting evidence. Why don't you read the recent "Who Pays Report" (from www.itep.org) on tax fairness and compare California with Washington before pontificating on how great Washington is.

    And that hoary myth about Mussolini and the trains--utter garbage, look it up.


    Posted Tue, Feb 12, 6:03 p.m. Inappropriate

    Wait, libertarians have talking points?


    Posted Wed, Feb 13, 1:33 p.m. Inappropriate

    What a great proposal for the rich and for business and corporations. The Legislature passes tax exemptions and loopholes by a simple majority vote but once passed it would take a two-thirds vote to repeal them. This amendment should be called the Tax Loophole Protection Act. This amendment benefits the rich and wealthy not the average citizen in this state.

    Posted Thu, Feb 14, 5:57 a.m. Inappropriate

    So will the Democrats in the House and the Democrat Governor act to remove the 2/3rds majority needed for School Bonds?


    Posted Thu, Feb 14, 1:16 p.m. Inappropriate

    Is it just me, or is there an eerie similarity ... ? Gun/wand, same difference.


    I'm gonna pay for this I know ...


    Posted Mon, Feb 18, 9:03 a.m. Inappropriate

    So much potential for comment here,... but action is what is really needed to defeat this initiative.

    As others have or will point out, this is all about the math.

    A "two thirds majority" is better characterized as a "one third minority (plus 1 vote)" then holds the power to halt action by the majority. It transfers real power to a shrinking minority, with dangerous implications for the future.

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