Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Is this the year the supermajority goes away?

Here in the Evergreen State school levies have to pass by a 60% margin to be considered approved, a tradition that goes back nearly 75 years. With the Dems having a supermajority of their own in the state house and senate, though, it's looking like this could be the year that they send a constitutional amendment to the voters asking them to overturn the requirement.

The state's newspapers are all over the topic. The Vancouver Columbian ran an article on Saturday and followed up with an editorial today. A part that resonated:
The issue is partisan, with Democrats mostly against the supermajority requirement and Republicans mostly in support of it. That, too, is ironic, given how much Republican lawmakers complain about assaults by Democrats on voter-approved tax limitations. Apparently they believe that if residents vote to limit taxes, they know what they are doing, but if a majority of voters wants to boost school taxes temporarily, they don't know what they're doing.

The Longview Daily News had an editorial, the Everett Herald had an article and the editorial, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer called it one of their top issues for the legislature this session, and the Walla-Walla Union Bulletin ran an editorial Tuesday.

All that said, I'm not convinced that a supermajority repeal would pass. The WEA has been pounding that drum for years (justifiably so, IMO), but this is still a state where Tim Eyman has some cache and it wouldn't be a slam dunk, especially with the WEA spending so much time on their Take the Lead project.

When the legislation comes out it will be interesting to see both who the sponsors are are the exact wording that is used. I'm not versed enough in the process to understand all the wrinkles involved (are you out there, JL?), but I'll give you my thoughts as they come along.


Blogger SVC Alumnus Blogger said...

The problem is that Republicans and The Columbian editorial board want a simple majority in November... and Democrat's don't.

Respectfully Democrats are the true obstructionists, not the Republicans by that standard: They know what it'll take to pass, but won't make the compromise.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The justification for the 60% is that it is an override of a constitutional cap on property taxes.

The state constitution has a long-standing guaranteed cap on property taxes of 1% of the value per year.
( sec. 2)

Because the collection of the 1% is allocated among the usual property tax entities, school levies are always "special" requiring the 60% to bypass the tax protection built into the constitution.

Some point to the 59% approvals as a travesty of democracy, but the reality is school districts calculate the tolerable tax load to be at the 60% mark. If the tax rate per thousand is low, you can get 70 or 80 percent. The real skill is to get the tax rate exactly where 60% can tolerate. Sometimes estimaters miss the mark slightly.

Going to 50% only means that they will calculate the tax per 1,000 a bit higher...and we'll see some 49% results.

Some also are concerned that increasing reliance upon local levies is a ceding of state responsibility to fund education.

Maybe we need to ban levies and increase the state portion of the property tax and divide the funds as we do with LEA (levy equalization). Any local imposed funding could not be commingled with school district funds, and could only be used for supplemental services (none for fleshing out compensation agreements that are more generous than the state provides).

For the actual language, I good resource is

For the pending legislation language:


11:43 AM  
Blogger SVC Alumnus Blogger said...

The Chronicle of Centralia agrees that the November simple-majority is best.

Although the more I think about it, anon is right...

2:39 AM  
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5:18 AM  

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