Volz proposes constitutional amendment requiring a ‘vote of the people’ for tax increases

‘Enough is enough. Let’s let the people have a say,’ says Volz

Rep. Mike Volz, R-Spokane, believes Washington state voters should have the final say on any tax increase implemented by majority party Democrats in Olympia.

“It’s one of the things I hear about the most when I’m out in my community,” said the 6th District lawmaker. “Constituents frequently ask me: ‘How many times do we have to say ‘no’ before the Legislature will understand that we don’t want taxes increased?’

“Well, I’m listening to the will of the people,” said Volz. “I challenge my Olympia colleagues to do the same.”

Volz is sponsoring a constitutional amendment that would require a mandatory referendum – a vote of the people – after any tax increase implemented by Washington state legislators.

“The people I represent are tired of not being listened to,” said Volz. “With runaway inflation, ever-increasing state budgets, and the costs for fuel and energy going up, the state government ‘hand in the wallet’ is getting to be a bit much. And, frankly, they’re not seeing the bang for their buck. They’re sending all this money to the state and yet they see housing and homelessness getting worse, crime getting worse, access to affordable health care getting worse, their students falling behind the rest of the nation, and the costs of higher education continuing to go up.

“Enough is enough. Let’s let the people have a say,” said Volz.

Part of the reason for his constitutional amendment, House Joint Resolution 4202, is the current effort to get rid of the tax advisory votes, he said.

Tax advisory votes, which were established by an initiative over 15 years ago, where presented as a way for the public to voice their opinion on taxes. The advisory votes are required on any new tax increase but are not legally binding.

While Volz has historically supported the tax advisory votes, he said the writing may be on the wall for their demise.

“The majority party has proposed legislation to do away with tax advisory votes,” said Volz. “And why wouldn’t they? How many tax increases have they passed in the last few years only to have the public vote against them with the advisory votes? I’d want to get rid of them too if I was consistently going against the will of the people. Nobody likes to look in the mirror when they have egg on their face.”

Volz said the allegation that tax advisory votes are confusing to the public was just a way of justifying the unjustifiable.

“They’re not confusing to the voter,” said Volz. “The only confusing part is why the majority party keeps raising taxes on a public that continually says ‘stop it.’ At some point, you have to either listen to what the public wants or ignore them completely. Unfortunately, it appears the majority party is choosing the latter.”

Under stipulations in Volz’s proposal, if the public voted against the tax increase, the bill that implemented the increase would be sent back to either the House or Senate, wherever the bill originated. No amendments to the original bill would be allowed. However, if both chambers again passed the bill, it would become law without triggering another mandatory referendum.

“This allows the Legislature some flexibility while still giving the people a huge voice in the matter,” said Volz. “Do you really want to be the one advocating for and voting again for a tax increase that the voters just rejected? You can, but you’d better have a darn good reason and be able to stick your neck out for it.

“There is a measure of accountability that is lacking when it comes to tax increases,” said Volz. “I think my constitutional amendment brings a level of public scrutiny, involvement, and accountability that will make Democrats think twice before voting to take more money from hardworking taxpayers.”

In Washington state, a constitutional amendment like HJR 4202 must have the support of two-thirds of the legislators in both the House and Senate to pass the Legislature. If that happens, it would then go to a vote of the people, where a simple majority vote would establish it into law.

The 105-day 2023 legislative session began January 9.


Washington State House Republican Communications