Politics & Government

Freshmen force, lose roll call vote on tax breaks

Rep. Laurie Jinkins got her floor vote.

It was 52 in favor, 42 against – a majority, sure, but not the two-thirds supermajority it takes to raise taxes.

So a tax break for banks won’t be scaled back. And Washington won’t raise $83 million in extra tax revenue this year, something Tacoma Democrat Jinkins says could have been used to reverse some of the teacher layoffs caused by a budget plan she voted for hours earlier.

The result was not in doubt ahead of the Tuesday night vote in the House. Republicans stood unanimous against taxing mortgage interest earned by big multistate banks, and GOP Leader Richard DeBolt of Chehalis mocked what he called “political theater.”

Freshmen led Democrats on the fight. Tacoma’s Jinkins and Rep. Connie Ladenburg, Tumwater Rep. Chris Reykdal and others voted for the budget but wanted to end some tax breaks to soften the blow of its nearly $5 billion in cuts.

“I think it was worth the effort,” Jinkins said. “I’m really glad it got to the floor.”

It was clear the vote might be used against Republicans in the next election cycle, showing they were unwilling to close a “tax loophole” on Wall Street banks to help kids.

But it was less clear whether Democrats would try to capitalize on their talk about whether the voter-imposed supermajority requirement violates the state constitution. House Speaker Frank Chopp put remarks on the official House record that in effect invited the courts to say whether the requirement is constitutional.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, took a similar issue to the state Supreme Court in 2009, but the court declined to rule on the relevant issue. Brown hasn’t been interested in another challenge, but Reykdal has said some House Democrats were looking into their legal options.

Voter approval of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053 reinstated the two-thirds supermajority vote requirement in November, and he already is drafting a reprise for 2012.

Republicans said banks would pass the tax along to homeowners, which Jinkins denied, saying that if that were true, Washington would have lower mortgage rates than other states.

The money would have gone to reducing class sizes in kindergarten through third grade.

Democrats Troy Kelley of Tacoma, Chris Hurst of Enumclaw, Sharon Wylie of Vancouver and Mark Miloscia of Federal Way joined Republicans in opposition.