How is the two-thirds legislative majority good for Washington?

A voter sent me an e-mail. Here’s the question, and my response. (Footnotes with links to source material are at the bottom.)

WM wrote:

I would like to know how creating a more difficult legislative hurdle for raising taxes is good for Washington. States trying to hamstring taxation, Wisconsin and Kansas, have seen their economies perform worse than average and suffer from weak or non existent job growth. I would like you to concatenate making tax votes more difficult with economic growth.

I replied:

Thanks for your e-mail. This is an important question, and it deserves a serious answer.

First, I don’t think you can draw a simple cause-and-effect relationship between the difficulty of increasing taxation and either economic growth or job growth. Economies the size of Washington state are complex and have many factors that lead to growth or stagnation. As of March 2011, sixteen states had some kind of supermajority voting requirement (SMVR) for tax increases.[1] Their economic outcomes vary widely[2]; nine had GDP growth in 2013 higher than average; the other seven were below average. Eight had higher-than-average job growth between December 2012 and December 2013; eight had lower-than-average growth[3]. I don’t think you can pin economic outcomes solely on the SMVR.

In addition, a recent study concludes that while SMVRs curb tax rates in the short run, the effect diminishes over time.[4]

So, if the economic data is mixed, why would I support such a change to the Washington state constitution?

First, the voters have spoken very clearly on the issue: they have approved the 2/3 majority six times in the past twenty years.

Second, I believe that our legislators have too frequently turned to tax increases rather than spending reductions to solve budget deficits. Government should, like doctors, first vow to do no harm. Tax increases very often harm the very people our legislators are trying to help. For example, the proposed 10.5 cent increase in the gas tax during the last legislative session would have a disproportionate impact on those least able to bear that cost – the working poor.

Third, total budgeted spending in the 2013-15 biennium is just above $80 billion. In the 2003-05 biennium, that figure was $53 billion. Spending has gone up 50% in the past ten years. We do not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.

Finally, I believe that government spending is less economically efficient than leaving money in the hands of the people who earned it. If you let people keep their money, they either spend it or invest it. Either way, 100 percent of every dollar contributes to economic growth. If you tax it, some portion of it is wasted in administration and red tape. By definition, less than 100 percent of every dollar contributes to economic growth.

I realize that we may disagree; if so, you may find that one of my opponents is a better fit for you. I hope that you’ll consider this information and come to conclusions similar to those I’ve reached. If so, I would deeply appreciate your vote. If not, then, please vote your conscience.

Thanks again for writing, and for taking the time to carefully consider these important issues.

[1] The states are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington. See this website.

[2] US economic growth was 1.8% for 2013. See this website.

[3] US average job growth was 1.71% from Dec. 2012 to Dec 2013; see this website and look at the Total Nonfarm job sector, with a Same Month Prev. Year data set for the month of December 2013.

[4] See this website.