State Senate approves rule change requiring a two-thirds vote to OK new taxes

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The state Senate took quick action at the start of the new legislative session, approving a rule change that would make it harder for that chamber to take action on new taxes.

The rule change, filed by Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville, would require a two-thirds vote of the Senate for any bill that creates a new tax in order to advance to the chamber floor for a final vote.

It's less sweeping than a plan proposed last week by fellow Republican Sens. Doug Ericksen and Michael Baumgartner, who were seeking that higher threshold for all tax bills.

Currently, a measure passes when 25 of the Senate's 49 members approve it. The proposed rule change would apply only to new taxes being considered by the chamber by requiring two-thirds — or 33 — votes.

Under the rule change, if a referendum clause that requires a public vote is attached to the bill, only a simple majority vote of 25 votes would be required.

The 105-day legislative session began Monday afternoon in Olympia with a contempt order by the state Supreme Court hanging over lawmakers' heads and disagreement over how to respond to it.

Democrats and Gov. Jay Inslee say more revenues are needed for a projected shortfall of more than $2 billion. Republicans say the state has enough for existing services and education, and that the focus shouldn't be on higher taxes, but efficient spending.

Lawmakers also must still address pressing issues on transportation and potential changes to the state's medical marijuana system to bring it in line with the legal recreational system.

Gov. Jay Inslee is set to give his state of the state speech on Tuesday.