Gov. Chris Gregoire said Thursday she plans to bypass the state attorney general’s office and seek court guidance on the constitutionality of a law limiting tax increases.
Gregoire, who is technically listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, said she is working with outside counsel to petition the courts for a ruling on Initiative 1053, which requires lawmakers to have a two-thirds majority to raise taxes.
Voters widely approved that measure in 2010, essentially removing taxes as an option for balancing the budget.
The governor’s office said she is not taking a position on the law and expects the attorney general’s office to defend state law by arguing that the court should not decide the matter. She called it a critical public policy issue that needed court guidance.
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“I’m going to make it clear that it needs to be decided,” Gregoire said. The outside attorney is working on a pro-bono basis.
Gregoire’s office expects the brief to be filed in the next few weeks, and it’s unclear when the court is expected to take action.
Some Democratic lawmakers have signed on to the lawsuit, which argues the law is unconstitutional because it prevents the state from meeting its obligation to schools.
Initiative promoter Tim Eyman called the lawsuit a sleazy approach to making it easier to raise taxes.
“It’s a real finger in the eye of voters,” Eyman said.
Republican lawmakers have generally opposed tax increases, even as the Legislature cut education and funds that led to dramatic increases in university tuition. Gregoire is proposing that lawmakers ask voters to approve a temporary increase in the sales tax to offset some education cuts.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Rob McKenna declined comment.