There aren't enough votes in the state House of Representatives to consider a constitutional amendment requiring the Legislature to approve tax increases by at least a two-thirds vote, state Rep. Larry Springer said Wednesday.
Furthermore, Springer, D-Kirkland, told an audience at AWB's Legislative Day: "I think a supermajority is a really bad way to conduct business."
Springer's fellow legislative leader panelists Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, leader of the Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate, and Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, minority leader in the House of Representatives, take a different view on the issue.
But it doesn't matter. As Springer observed, the math doesn't add up, at least this year.
The math is different on some other issues this year, however, thanks to the shakeup that put the Majority Coalition Caucus in charge of the Senate.
Tom, one of two Democrats who broke ranks and joined with Republicans, emphasized one of the differences that's already been seen as a result of the coalition: The first bills to pass out of the Senate this year are a trio of workers' compensation bills.
The legislation, Tom said, is meant to help business, and it supports the Majority Coalition's focus on jobs, education and the budget.
"It's not an easy piece of legislation," Tom said, and yet he noted that one of the three workers' comp bills approved by the Senate on Monday -- Senate Bill 5127 -- passed 30-19. The vote indicates broader support than just the 25-member Majority Coaltion Caucus.
The supermajority tax hike requirement, which is currently before the State Supreme Court, wasn't the only difference revealed by the panel.
Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, began her remarks by saying that the Majority Coalition Caucus "doesn't feel like a Senate-wide coaltion" and added, "We still have our core 24 Democrats."
She went on to cite statistics from AWB's Competitiveness Redbook, an annual publication comparing Washington's business climate with other states on a variety of measurements, that show Washington in a favorable light.
They include salary, at 106 percent of the national average, and total taxes that Fraser said are "kind of middle of the pack."
But Gary Chandler, AWB's vice president of government affairs, pointed Fraser to other tables in the Redbook that show Washington business' percentage of local and state taxes is among the highest in the country.
Chandler said those taxes, combined with other tax and regulation burdens such as workers' compensation insurance, raise the question of whether Washington is prepared for some of the manufacturing operations that businesses are looking to bring back to the U.S.
The issue of manufacturing highlighted more differences among the panelists. Tom and DeBolt both decried the Legislature's practices of "picking winners and losers" by adopting regulations designed to help one industry at the expense of others.
DeBolt said he wants to see a revival of Washington's manufacturing sector, a sector he believes has been overshadowed by high technology. "We can't think everyone is going to write an app," he said.
And Tom criticized his fellow lawmakers for mistakenly viewing themselves as venture capitalists.
"We're not," he said. "We've been terrible investors. Let the market decide."
Wednesday's Legislative Leadership panel was sponsored by AWB member company Puget Sound Energy.