Monday, July 25, 2011

Rep. Chris Reykdal on the court challenge to I-1053

When I was sworn in as the new state representative from the 22nd Legislative District, I took an oath solemnly swearing to support the Constitution and laws of the state of Washington. That Constitution also guarantees a people’s initiative process, which is held sacred in our state. I will always defend that right in accordance with the Constitution.

There is a real question, however, whether Initiative 1053 is in accordance with the Constitution. There is concern that I-1053 did not attempt to amend state law; it attempted to amend the state Constitution, something I take very seriously.

Article II, Section 22 of the state Constitution clearly vests the powers of lawmaking in the Legislature with a simple majority. I-1053 requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to not only raise taxes, but also to close outdated and unproven tax preferences/loopholes. We all know our tax code desperately needs modernization, but I-1053 makes it nearly impossible to bring about changes. Under I-1053, just seventeen out of 147, or 11 percent of our legislators, control our tax code. This makes it all that much easier for the powerful lobbyists of those that benefit from the most egregious tax exemptions and preferences to target their influence, no matter what the voters of Washington tell us.

This last session many of us attempted to close an inappropriate tax break on large Wall Street banks to fund education for our youngest learners. That effort received a Constitutional majority of legislators who were elected by the people to represent them. Sadly, a minority of House members were able to block its passage.

Now, a coalition of educators and organizations, and some House Democrats who supported the bill are challenging I-1053 and we are looking to the courts for guidance on the matter.

Whatever the outcome, we must get past the simplicity of partisan politics in our state if we are going to make meaningful gains in education, public safety, human services, and other core functions of government. At times this will require cutting some programs as we did this year, and sometimes it will require raising taxes when appropriate.

We can have meaningful tax reform, a balanced budget, and a more effective state government if we legislators are allowed to perform our Constitutional duty. But we cannot make progress without the courts ruling on this matter once and for all. Our Constitution is a sacred document and the rights granted in it should not be altered without a clear constitutional amendment. Not the right to bear arms, the right of free speech, nor the right of taxation by a majority of elected legislators.

I look forward to the Court’s consideration of this legal challenge to I-1053. More importantly, I look forward to working with House and Senate members, the Governor, citizens, and key stakeholders in building a more rational and responsible approach to State Government taxation.

Chris Reykdal
22nd Legislative District