Tax-majority question on ballot

11:29 am October 24th, 2012

When is a majority big enough to raise taxes? That’s the question Pierce County Council members have posed and voters countywide are answering in the general election.

Ballots mailed to voters last week include a proposed amendment of the county charter that would require at least five council members – a supermajority – to authorize new county taxes. Currently, four of the seven council members are enough for such tax decisions.

If it’s approved by voters, the change would take effect Jan. 1, 2013.

After debating the subject among themselves publicly, the council acted earlier this year to let voters decide the majority-approval question.

The county charter, which is similar to a constitution, guides the county’s home rule form of government. Proposals to change it normally go through the county’s Charter Review Commission. The citizen commission meets at least every 10 years to consider revisions of the charter and submit proposed changes to voters in the form of ballot measures. The council circumvented that process with its own measure.

In the 5-2 council vote May 29 to send the supermajority proposal directly to voters, council members Tim Farrell and Rick Talbert cast the dissenting votes. They expressed a preference for having the review commission convene next year or in 2014 to address the potential change in decisionmaking on new taxes.

Council members supporting the larger majority and wanting to move more quickly to put it into effect include Councilman Roger Bush, who made the initial proposal. Bush, whose council district includes Graham, Eatonville and other south Pierce County areas, is leaving office at the end of this year because of term limits.

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