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A vote for the majority
Washington state voters now hold the key to doing away with the super-majority law after state lawmakers agreed last week to send the change to the ballot this fall. Voters will decide in November whether or not to change a 1944 amendment to the state constitution that imposed the super-majority rule to protect property owners from tax increases voted in by non-property owners — those who did not bear the burden of such taxes.
The super-majority law is the requirement that 60 percent must vote “yes” on school district levies in order for them to pass. It is a vote that some say, will not pass. If it does, it will help many districts across the state who struggle to approve basic operation and maintenance levies or bonds to purchase buses or computers. It won’t make much difference here. Mercer Islanders have consistently and increasingly supported education through their votes to impose taxes on their property and through the dollars and time that they commit to Island schools.
The real constraint on the use of levy dollars for Mercer Island and many other districts in Washington state is the lid imposed on how much property owners can be taxed for their schools. Until that levy lid is changed, lifted or loosened, the use of the tax levy to fund the necessities for education will remain a imperfect tool.
A change in super-majority rules for levy votes still does not address the over-arching issue of school funding — that of ensuring a secure, on-going, adequate source of funding education from the state itself. But it could be a step forward.