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

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Washington Initiative 960 was on the November 6, 2007 ballot in Washington as an Initiative to the People, where it was approved but later overturned. I-960 required that in order for the Washington State Legislature to raise taxes, the legislature would have to approve any tax increases with a two-thirds supermajority vote or submit tax increase proposals to a statewide vote of the electorate.[1]

I-960 was sponsored by Tim Eyman. The day after I-960 passed, Eyman described the victory as "enormously gratifying."[2]


See also: Washington Initiative 1053 (2010)

As of 2010 I-960 passed the two-year threshold, thus opening the possibility for legislators to revoke the provisions of I-960. Tim Eyman therefore proposed I-1053 which would implement a permanent 2/3rds supermajority requirement for all tax raises in the future.

Repeal of I-960

In January 2010 Democrats, who are in the majority in the state legislature, said they planned to suspend I-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"[3]. On February 4, Margarita Prentice introduced Senate Bill 6843, which would repeal I-960.[4],[5][6] Should I-960 be repealed, tax increases would only require a simple majority, otherwise I-960 requires a two-thirds approval by the legislature.[7]

On February 17, 2010 the House approved the temporary suspension of I-960 after a 51-47 vote.[8] Shortly thereafter the Senate voted 26-21 in favor of suspending I-960.[9][10] Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the 16-month suspension of some provisions of Initiative 960 on February 25, 2010[11]

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, [13][14]


Election results

Washington 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

What I-960 does

I-960 makes it harder for the state legislature to raise taxes and requires more public information about state legislative finance proposals.

Specifically, I-960:

  • Puts every statewide tax measure on a ballot for voters to approve, disapprove or offer an advisory opinion.
  • Requires every fee hike to be passed by legislators and signed into law by the governor.
  • Mandates that a press release be issued on every meaningful action on bills dealing with taxes and fees.

The ballot measure summary that appeared on the November 2007 ballot reads:

"This measure would require either a two-thirds vote in each house of the legislature or voter approval for all tax increases. New or increased fees would require prior legislative approval. An advisory vote would be required on any new or increased taxes enacted by the legislature without voter approval. The office of financial management would be required to publish cost information and information regarding legislators’ voting records on bills imposing or increasing taxes or fees."

Legal battles

Two organizations opposed to I-960, Futurewise and the 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.[17]

The plaintiffs claimed that parts of what the initiative attempts to do can only be done by amending the state constitution, which cannot be done 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.

In August 2007, the Washington State Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal of Judge Shaffer's decision. Futurewise and SEIU 775 financially sponsored the appeal of Judge Shaffer's June ruling.

Tim Eyman gave the press a statement about the legal challenge,[18] which read in part:

The State Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in 2005 that these kinds of anti-initiative lawsuits are illegal. That unanimous ruling -- Coppernoll v. Reed -- made clear that voters have a First Amendment right to vote on initiatives.

On September 7, 2007, the Washington Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of I-960 staying on the ballot.[19]

Brown v. Owen

I-960 continued to be the subject of legal action after voters approved it. On Feb. 29, 2008, in the closing days of the Washington legislature's 2008 session, Senate Democrats laid the groundwork for a legal challenge of the measure, again taking the position that the measure—which requires a two-thirds majority to pass tax increases—attempts to trump the state constitution, which requires only a simple majority.

Democratic lawmakers said that they were using a vote on an increase in the liquor tax—which garnered a majority but not the super-majority required by I-960—to establish standing for bringing a lawsuit against I-960, which they plan to do. "A two-thirds requirement to pass certain types of bills, in my opinion, is antidemocratic and violates the Washington constitution," Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown (D-Spokane)said.[20]

"This was a preview of things to come," Tim Eyman said. "There's going to be a lot of efforts to push for higher taxes next year."

Senate GOP budget leader Joseph Zarelli (R-Ridgefield), challenged Brown's assertion that the two-thirds requirement is undemocratic. "The people clearly supported it. This is what they wanted," Zarelli said. "Do we honor the democratic process, or do we get to pick and choose?"[21]

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Lisa Brown v. Brad Owen' on September 9, 2008 and on March 5, 2009 denied Brown's petition for a writ of mandamus, saying that issuing the writ Brown 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."[22],[23]


Kirkland, Washington investment executive Mike Dunmire contributed about $400,000 to the ballot measure during the petition drive period.

Proponent 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 has described the campaign against I-960 as headed by "Eyman nemesis" Christian Sinderman.[24]

Gov. Chris Gregoire has said the measure isn't needed.

The Washington-based group Permanent Defense (named by contrast to Eyman's group Permanent Offense) also opposes 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.[25]


The Elway Poll of Washington voters, taken from October 9-11, found 56% of those polled in favor of the measure. The same poll showed 63% in favor in August. The percentage of those polled opposing the measure in the same poll was 32%. This is an increase from 15% opposing it in August.[26]

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.[27]

Path to the ballot

See also: Washington signature requirements

In July 2007, initiative activist Tim Eyman turned in 314,000 signatures to the Washington Secretary of State's office in order to qualify the measure for the ballot.[28]

On Thursday, July 19, the Secretary of State's office announced that a random check had determined that the measure had sufficient valid signatures to be placed on the ballot.[29]

See also

Suggest a link


External links


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