Washington Rules for Approving Tax Increases, Initiative 960 (2007)

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The Washington Rules for Approving Tax Increases Initiative, also known as Initiative 960, was on the November 6, 2007 ballot in Washington as an Initiative to the People, where it was approved but later overturned. The measure would have required the Washington State Legislature to acquire a supermajority vote or the approval of voters for any tax increases.[1]


Brown v. Owen

On February 29, 2008, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Democratic lawmakers initiated a legal challenge to the initiative's two-thirds majority requirement for tax increases as unconstitutional and undemocratic[2] Republican State Senator Joseph Zarelli challenged the assertion that the requirement was unconstitutional or undemocratic. He stated, "The people clearly supported it. This is what they wanted. Do we honor the democratic process, or do we get to pick and choose?"[3]

On September 9, 2008, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of "Lisa Brown v. Brad Owen." On March 5, 2009 the Supreme Court denied Brown's petition, stating that issuing the wit requested would violate the separation of powers doctrine. Justice Barbara Madsen, when the case was heard, signalled this outcome by saying, "The court plunging headfirst into the legislative process, that's a concern I have."[4][5]

Repeal of Initiative 960

By 2010, Initiative 960 passed the two-year threshold in which legislators could not revoke the initiative's provisions. Therefore, Tim Eyman proposed Initiative 1053 which would implement a permanent 2/3rds supermajority requirement for all tax raises in the future. The initiative was approved, but later overturned.

In January 2010, Democrats, who were in the majority in the legislature, said they planned to suspend Initiative 960 "to make way for tax increases to help close a $2.6 billion state budget gap and stave off severe cuts to state services."[6] On February 4, State Senator Margarita Prentice introduced Senate Bill 6843, which would repeal the initiative.[7][8][9] On February 17, 2010 the House approved the temporary suspension of the initiative after a 51-47 vote.[10] Shortly thereafter the Senate voted 26-21 in favor of suspending the initiative.[11][12] Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the 16-month suspension of some provisions of Initiative 960 on February 25, 2010.[13]

2013 Washington Supreme Court ruling

On February 28, 2013, the Washington Supreme Court issued its ruling on League of Educ. Voters v. State and, in doing so, declared legislation requiring a supermajority vote for tax legislation unconstitutional. The challenge was initially filed against Initiative 1053, but is part of a larger issue concerning similar initiatives beginning in 1993 with Initiative 601.

The court found such supermajority requirements to be in violation of Washington Constitution, Article II, Section 22, which states that no bill shall become law unless a majority of each chamber votes in favor of it. The court's ruling concludes with,

Our holding today is not a judgment on the wisdom of requiring a supermajority for the passage of tax legislation. Such judgment is left to the legislative branch of our government. Should the people and the legislature still wish to require a supermajority vote for tax legislation, they must do so through constitutional amendment, not through legislation.


Washington Supreme Court

Election results

Washington Rules for Approving Tax Increases, Initiative 960 (2007)
OverturnedotOverturned Case:League of Educ. Voters v. State 87425-5 (2013)
Yes 816,792 51.24%

Election results via: Washington Secretary of State

Text of measure

The language appeared on the ballot as:[1]

Initiative Measure No. 960 concerns tax and fee increases imposed by state government.

This measure would require two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval for tax increases, legislative approval of fee increases, certain published information on tax-increasing bills, and advisory votes on taxes enacted without voter approval.

Should this measure be enacted into law?

Yes [ ] No [ ][16]



Supporter Tim Eyman wrote in an op-ed in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the measure is desirable because it sends three clear messages to state legislators:

  • "Follow the laws, especially those approved by the people. You are elected to represent the people, not rule them."
  • "Don't violate our state constitution, which says that with any Legislature-approved law, the people are guaranteed the right to gather signatures, put it on the ballot and let the voters decide. The referendum power deters lawmakers from going over a cliff and passing laws they know to be opposed by the people. But that constitutional right is taken away every time you declare a bill an "emergency." So stop it. Stop attaching emergency clauses to bills -- every time you do, you take away and short-circuit our rights. It's an abuse of power and repeals our constitutionally guaranteed rights. Just stop it."
  • "State and local governments impose and collect more than $50 billion every year. Even without tax increases, that amount increases. If prioritized, that's more than enough."


The "No on I-960" campaign included AARP, the Washington Education Association, the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, SEIU and Futurewise. AP political reporter David Ammons described the campaign against I-960 as headed by "Eyman nemesis" Christian Sinderman.[17] Gov. Chris Gregoire said the measure isn't needed. The Washington-based group Permanent Defense (named by contrast to Eyman's group Permanent Offense) opposed the measure.


Arguments against I-960 published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer by Doug Shadel representing the American Association of Retired Persons and Barbara Seitle of the League of Women Voters say that I-960 is a bad idea because it would:

  • Create layers of bureaucracy.
  • Paralyze state government.
  • Prohibit lengthy ballot arguments when spending increases are requested
  • Make it hard for the Legislature to respond to the needs of the public during a bridge collapse, pandemic flu or terrorist attack.
  • Be a "straitjacket" and "handcuff" on state government.[18]


The Elway Poll of Washington voters, taken from October 9-11, found 56% of those polled favored the measure. The same poll showed 63% in favor in August 2007. The percentage of those polled opposing the measure in the same poll was 32%. This is an increase from 15% opposing it in August 2007.[19]

The August 2007 Elway Poll found that seven out of ten surveyed said they support the idea of requiring a two-thirds majority of the Legislature or a public vote to raise any state taxes, with 50 percent of Democrats inclined to vote for I-960, as well as 76 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Independents.[20]

Path to the ballot

Initiative 960 was filed on July 6, 2007 by Tim Eyman, Mr. M. J. Fagan, Mr. Leo J. Fagan. 314,504 signatures were submitted to qualify it for the ballot. The measure was placed on the ballot as provided for by the state constitution.[21]

Futurewise 775NW v. Reed

Futurewise and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 775 went to court in June 2007 to ask King County Superior Court to block the Eyman measure from the ballot.[22] The plaintiffs claimed that parts of what the initiative attempts to do can only be done by constitutional amendment, not by citizen initiative in Washington. King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer ruled against the complaint, stating that the proposal is within the initiative power of the people. Futurewise and SEIU 775 sponsored an appeal to the Washington Supreme Court in August 2007. On September 7, 2007, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Initiative 960 staying on the ballot.[23]

See also

Suggest a link

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 'Office of the Secretary of State, "2007 Voters Pamphlet," accessed September 4, 2013
  2. Seattle Times: "Liquor tax defeat lays groundwork for I-960 challenge," Feb. 29, 2008
  3. Seattle Times: "Liquor tax defeat lays groundwork for I-960 challenge," Feb. 29, 2008
  4. Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Wash. Supreme Court hears tax limits case," Sept. 9, 2008
  5. Evergreen Freedom Foundation, "Lisa Brown v. Brad Owen"
  6. Seattle Times, "Eyman will push to restore tax barrier," January 12, 2010
  7. Washington Votes, Washington Senate Bill 6843
  8. Seattle Times, "Senate Democrats propose bill to make it easier to raise taxes," February 3, 2010
  9. Text of SB 6843
  10. The Seattle Times, "State House approves I-960 suspension," February 18, 2010
  11. Associated Press, "Wash. Legislature OKS suspension of I-960," February 22, 2010
  12. The Spokesman-Review, "State senate approves I-960 suspension for the third time," February 22, 2010
  13. The Spokesman-Review, "Gregoire signs I-960 suspension," February 24, 2010
  14. Associated Press,"State Supreme Court strikes down two-thirds vote for tax hikes," February 28, 2013
  15. League of Educ. Voters v. State 87425-5 (2013)
  16. 16.0 16.1 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  17. The Columbian (dead link)
  18. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/335273_init960no14.html
  19. Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "R-67 Lead Grows, I-960 Lead Shrinks"
  20. Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Eyman's tax initiative a hit in Elway Poll"
  21. Washington Secretary of State, "Initiatives to the People," accessed September 4, 2013
  22. Eyman's I-960 should be invalidated, Seattle PI
  23. Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Court says Eyman measure can go on ballot," Sept. 8, 2007