I spent some time on Wednesday with initiative king Tim Eyman, and he, like the rest of us, is waiting on tenterhooks for the state Supreme Court to hand down a ruling on I-1053.
As is true of maybe half the ballot measures Eyman has sponsored over the past decade, 1053’s main focus was requiring a two-thirds majority in the Legislature — or a vote of the people — to raise taxes. And just as predictably, it was challenged in court by those who just can’t live without an ever-increasing share of our hard-earned dollars but can’t quite make a compelling enough case to persuade a supermajority of state lawmakers or simple majority of taxpayers.
What makes the anticipated I-1053 ruling so intriguing is the prospect of it being released right smack in the middle of the 2013 legislative session — just as, coincidentally, lawmakers are grappling with the question of how to fund the billions more in education spending mandated by the court’s earlier ruling in the McCleary case.
Simply put, the same justices who issued McCleary must know the Legislature’s chances of passing a whopping big tax increase — or several, more likely — would be improved immeasurably by overturning I-1053. If so, what are they waiting for?
Eyman’s best guess is the court members watched as I-1185, which also requires a two-thirds majority, was approved by 65 percent of the state’s voters last November and concluded discretion was the better part of valor. He believes the justices are waiting to see whether the Legislature will raise taxes on its own before putting their heads in the noose.
Personally, I’m even more cynical. I think the justices know perfectly well they’re going to rescind 1053, just as they know they haven’t a prayer of getting a tax increase if they don’t. I just think they’re waiting until a little later in the session — with just enough time left to pass the budget by a simple majority but not enough for Republicans to muster a decent defense — before dropping the bombshell.
Or did you think the court was above petty politics?