State’s Public Unions Are Right On Supermajority Protections

Published January 26, 2016


With the dust still clearing from yesterday’s court ruling on I-1366 and Senate hearing on SJR 8211, it is a good time to reflect on examples from across the country when it comes to supermajority protections. In fact, a couple of good examples can be found in the constitutions of several of Washington’s public employee unions. 

Consider the constitutions for WFSE, WEA and SEIU 925 (emphasis added):

  • SEIU 925 Constitution – Two-thirds vote required to approve strike
    “The authority to call a strike is vested in the Negotiating Committee with the approval of the Executive Board. In order for a strike to be called, it must be authorized by a ratification vote by two-thirds of those affected members who participate in the vote under the following conditions . . .”

It also appears the WSLC constitution requires a constitutional amendment (which takes a two-thirds vote) to increase its per capita tax on members.

These unions are 100% correct that their members should receive the added protection of a supermajority vote before special assessments can be imposed or strike votes approved. In fact, I am so impressed by this union model that when testifying yesterday on SJR 8211 I encouraged lawmakers (51 min mark) to follow these unions’ example and provide the same protection for taxpayers.

We can also look to the example of the 17 other states that require a supermajority vote to raise taxes. In 2012 I contacted the budget office for each state in the country asking if they had a supermajority for taxes restriction. The following information was self-reported by the states: 

  • Alabama – State income and property taxes cannot be increased without constitutional amendment
  • Arizona – 2/3 legislative vote
  • Arkansas – 3/4 legislative vote
  • California – 2/3 legislative vote (includes fee increases)
  • Colorado – Voter approval required for all tax increases
  • Delaware – 3/5 legislative vote
  • Florida – 2/3 legislative vote
  • Kentucky – 3/5 legislative vote
  • Louisiana – 2/3 legislative vote
  • Michigan – 3/4 legislative vote for property taxes
  • Mississippi – 3/5 legislative vote
  • Missouri – Voter approval required above revenue cap
  • Nevada – 2/3 legislative vote (includes fee increases)
  • Oklahoma – 3/4 legislative vote
  • Oregon – 3/5 legislative vote
  • South Dakota – 2/3 legislative vote
  • Wisconsin – 2/3 legislative vote (statutory)

The fact that 17 states and several state employee unions have required supermajority votes for certain actions is not surprising. Some decisions are so important that a broad consensus is required. Washington’s constitution already has 20 plus supermajority restrictions for certain actions. If the voters have their way they will soon have the opportunity to add another.

Jason Mercier ([email protected]) is Director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center. An earlier version of this article appeared at Reprinted with permission.