EDITORIAL | Overturning Eyman initiative still won’t fill state coffers

If a 178-day Washington legislative session seemed ridiculous, expect next year’s convening of the Legislature to be even worse.

Rather than putting its focus on boosting education funding — an effort the state Supreme Court has consistently found falling short of the goal line — passage of Tim Eyman’s severely flawed Initiative 1366 will have Democrats struggling in vain to repeal it.

The state Supreme Court will hopefully strike down the initiative by January for violating the state’s single-subject rule for ballot measures, but that remains uncertain at this time.

I-1366 is squeaking by with 51-percent approval across the state, and even opponents have accepted anti-taxman Eyman has the win.

The initiative does two things, and they’re both terrible. The first is reducing the state sales tax from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent, which would mean an $8 billion loss in revenue to the state over six years.

To avoid this, the Legislature would need to go to voters in April with a constitutional amendment to make any tax adjustments or fee increases require a two-thirds legislative vote rather than the simple majority required — and difficult enough to reach — now. There are 17 Republicans in the 49-member Senate that will basically be able to veto any and all tax adjustments they deem unnecessary, which many conservatives consider to be anything that isn’t a reduction.

The state Supreme Court is the only solution to striking down this harmful initiative before it takes away much-needed revenue to not only meet the state’s paramount duty of funding public education but fixing Washington’s aging infrastructures, like roads and bridges.

Of course, the Legislature could just repeal I-1366, but that requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers. No one expects Republicans to turn their backs on the electorate, especially when it’s an anti-tax measure. GOP lawmakers in conservative districts across the state can simply sit back and await their landslide reelection.

A constitutional amendment can’t be made through an initiative, according to the state constitution, but I-1366 seems to take an alternative and very shady route, by forcing the Legislature to either put the option out for voters to decide or take a massive hit in sales tax revenue.

The state Supreme Court made its McCleary decision in 2012 and has been criticizing lawmakers ever since for not doing a better job of not only funding public education but making reforms to give property-poor school districts a better option than levies.

Justices even imposed a daily penalty against the Legislature after its last session failed to meet McCleary requirements; however, that didn’t inspire a special session to rectify the matter.

That brings up the question of whether a state Supreme Court decision striking down I-1366 will be the end of it.

The people have spoken, and it’s what Republican lawmakers wanted to hear. Even if I-1366 is repealed, it could still impact the already anti-tax mindset of GOP lawmakers, giving them further confidence to continue fighting McCleary and any other attempts to fill state coffers for the benefit Washingtonians.