According to the Washington State Department of Revenue, Washington stands to lose between $12 million and $55 million a year without implementation of the roll-your-own cigarette tax, which lawmakers that support the legislation say simply closes a loophole in existing tax law, and does not constitute a new tax. Opponents of the roll-your-own tax, who filed a lawsuit to block it earlier this month, and now Judge Spanner, say it does amount to a new tax, and is thus illegal because of Initiative 1053.
As the Department of Revenue notes in a press release distributed earlier this week:
Judge Spanner's order doesn't actually go into effect until the plaintiffs in the case post a $200,000 bond, which they have yet to do, but the state is seeking swift action from the Supreme Court because the legislation is scheduled to take effect on Sunday, July 1.
It's the latest chapter in an ongoing battle that should produce a ruling from the Supreme Court about the constitutionality of I-1053 - the Eyman-led effort passed by voters in 2010 requiring a two-thirds vote from the Legislature to raise taxes.
"It's a well-established legal principle that judges can overturn laws, though I think the judge got it wrong on this one because the law we passed on roll-your-own cigarettes was a law to enforce our existing tobacco tax, not a tax increase. However it is not all bad news, because this ruling makes it more likely that the State Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of the two-thirds supermajority for tax increases requirement. I believe the supermajority requirement is unconstitutional, and now we have two legal vehicles for putting that question before the Supreme Court."