Sen. Reuven Carlyle closed debate for Senate Democrats in the debate against a constitutional amendment that would require a 2/3rds majority vote to raise taxes. The vote needed a 2/3rds supermajority, or 33 votes to pass. The proposal failed along party lines, 26 to 23.


Lt. Gov. Owen: “Sen. Carlyle.”

Sen. Reuven Carlyle:

“Thank you so much, Mr. President.

“To close debate for those who believe in simple majority as a way to govern this state and this country. Mr. President, I so appreciate the good gentleman, Sen. Dansel raising the issue of our founders, and it’s rare and special that we have an opportunity to actually debate a material constitutional issue that our very founders debated hundreds of years ago. What did they say? What was their premise? What was their debate? Because they had it…it occurred. And here, we their successors in our state, acknowledge that there is a healthy and appropriate adversarial tension between parties, between this chamber and the other chamber, between the executive and the legislative branch, between the state, protected by the 10th amendment particularly and the federal government. That adversarial relationship is critical to representative democracy and to this constitutional republic. So…what did our founders say?

“Mr. President, if I may, Federalist 22, the 2/3rds vote requirement “contradicts the fundamental maximum of republican government, which requires that the sense of the majority should prevail.”

This is about the number 17. The entire premise of the proponents of eliminating simple majority rule is that it becomes a higher standard to close a corporate tax preference or rate. But our founders, in drafting the constitution, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, made the explicit case that the power is transferred to the minority. Seventeen members of this chamber have veto power over a policy position. Why is that policy not in the United States Constitution? Why? If they debated it for months? And the answer is because it was in the Articles of Confederation and it was a failure.

“Our founders made this decision and the reason supermajority for policy positions are not in the Constitution is because they learned a profoundly important lesson, and James Madison equated free government with simple majority.

“We have an incredibly important choice.

“This initiative and this bill is written in such a way to ensure that we lock in place in perpetuity 594 existing tax preferences, credits, and preferential rates, and it will be virtually impossible to ever modify them, even modify the date in order to provide support for our paramount duty of public education, mental health care, veteran’s services, nursing homes. We empower a minority of 17 of 147 to have veto power. And the central opposition that Alexander Hamilton had to this was corruption. Outright corruption!

“Our good friends in the state of California had this requirement and they found a range of nefarious and questionable implications. Our paramount duty is public education. We have a wonderful state with a great quality of life for seven million people. This legislation takes 50 percent of the entire ledger and not only makes it untouchable, but it hides it, and it makes it secret. We can’t know who gets a benefit for how much value – to say nothing of ever trying to close it. It’s effectively locking in place the entire revenue structure of the State of Washington.

“I think we’re better than that.

“The people, as is their right, have an important and overwhelmingly powerful voice in every way. And, the good gentleman’s right that all power rests with the people. But we have a constitutional republic for a reason and supermajority empowers the minority of 17 to control one half of the entire ledger of how the people’s money flows…and the special interests couldn’t be more thrilled.

“We’re better than this as a state.

“I ask you to stand for representative democracy and oppose this constitutional amendment.

“Thank you Mr. President.”