A measure to temporarily suspend the tax-limiting constraints placed on lawmakers by a voter-approved initiative was signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire on Wednesday.
Gregoire signed the bill just days after the Legislature approved the measure. The measure takes effect immediately.
The bill spurred two weeks of heated debate in both the House and Senate. Initiative 960 makes it harder for lawmakers to raise taxes or to close tax exemptions, which is why the Democratic majority needed the suspension.
Budget writers want a mix of spending cuts, tax increases and one-time fixes to fill a $2.8 billion deficit.
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House and Senate Democrats both unveiled budget proposals Tuesday, with the Senate pushing for a temporary sales tax increase and an additional $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes, and closing numerous tax exemptions. House Democrats have not yet released the revenue-raising part of their budget proposal, though they are expected to do so by week’s end.
The initiative, approved by voters in 2007, requires two-thirds approval from legislators to raise taxes – a significant hurdle compared with the simple majority needed to pass other measures. The bill signed by Gregoire would pause most of the initiative’s provisions until July 2011, when the next two-year budget cycle begins.
The measure doesn’t suspend all of the initiative: e-mail notifications sent to the public about proposed tax increases will continue. However, the required nonbinding advisory vote by the public on taxes passed by the Legislature is suspended until July 2011. Also suspended was listing how lawmakers voted on taxes in the voter pamphlet sent out before elections.
Republicans had asked Gregoire to veto the section of the measure that suspends the public advisory vote on tax increases, but Gregoire signed the measure as it was passed by the Legislature.