The Association of Washington Business filed a friend of the court brief Monday in support of Initiative 1053, the voter-approved measure requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or a vote of the people to raise taxes.
The measure is under attack from an assortment of opponents who claim it prevented lawmakers from raising taxes during the 2011 legislation session in order to fund schools.
But the brief, written by Kris Tefft, AWB's general counsel, argues that neither I-1053 nor any of the three supermajority requirements that preceded it actually prevent lawmakers from raising taxes when there is sufficient support to do so.
In fact, lawmakers raised the very tax at issue in the I-1053 legal challenge with a two-thirds vote earlier this year.
Instead, I-1053's opponents are merely "seeking an easier political environment in which to enact tax increases," the brief argues.
Three previous legal challenges have failed to overturn the right of the people to impose a supermajority requirement on the Legislature.
The Washington Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear hear arguments next month on the latest challenge, should toss this one, as well, the brief argues.
In addition to calling out lawmakers for wanting an easier way to raise taxes, the brief highlights the tortured exchange on the House floor that was aimed at setting up the court challenge.
Opponents of I-1053 cite the failure of a specific piece of legislation, Substitute House Bill 2078, in their argument. But majority Democrats in the House were apparently more interested in orchestrating its failure than they were in making sure it passed, the brief argues.
"Rather than take actions that would have led to the passage of the measure, effort was instead invested in an elaborately choreographed set of colloquys preceding the floor vote, all evidently designed to tee up this specific legal dispute over the predestined failure of the measure," it states, adding that the website PubliCola confirmed that Democrats took the vote in order to set up the court challenge of I-1053.
"This is not a constitutional crisis," the brief states.
Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Sept. 25, and it's on "expedited review," giving rise to speculation whether the court will render a decision prior to the Nov. 6 vote on Initiative 1185, whcih seeks to pick up where I-1053 left off, or prior to the start of the 2013 legislative session.
Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center blogs on the AWB brief here.
To view the orchestrated colloquy, click on the video below.