Opinion: Opponents are somehow confused by income-tax Initiative 2111

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center encourages others to not believe that Initiative 2111 is too vague, sloppily written, confusing or unnecessary.

Elizabeth Hovde encourages others to not believe that this initiative is too vague, sloppily written, confusing or unnecessary

Elizabeth Hovde
Washington Policy Center

I kid you not. This half-page, clear-language initiative was called confusing, vague and poorly written by opponents of the initiative in a Wednesday hearing. Read on and see for yourself. 

Elizabeth Hovde, Washington Policy Center
Elizabeth Hovde, Washington Policy Center

The bill reads, in its entirety, “AN ACT Relating to establishing that neither the state nor any of its political subdivisions may charge any individual person a tax based on personal income; and adding a new chapter to Title 1 RCW.


NEW SECTION. Sec. 1. Neither the state nor any county, city, or other local jurisdiction in the state of Washington may tax any individual person on any form of personal income. For the purposes of this chapter, ‘income’ has the same meaning as ‘gross income’ in 26 U.S.C. Sec. 61.

NEW SECTION. Sec. 2. Section 1 of this act constitutes a new chapter in Title 1 RCW.”

That’s it.

The only confusing thing to people not accustomed to reading legislation could be the “be it enacted” verbiage and the RCW business. (RCW stands for Revised Code of Washington, which is a compilation of all permanent laws now in force in the state.) 

The Senate Bill Report and House Bill Analysis, prepared by the staff of committees that hear a bill, reflect a thorough understanding of the bill. Staff members at the Senate-House joint hearing on I-2111 also did not express confusion about the meaning of the bill, handily answering questions asked of them.

Erroneously criticizing I-2111 in this way might have come second only to the complaint that the initiative was “unnecessary.” That’s because, critics said, we don’t have a state income tax. It’s true. (It’s true even though payroll taxes definitely feel like income taxes, and the number of them is growing. They just don’t fit the definition of an unallowed income tax as defined by the state.) With lawmakers continually bringing up ways to tax income for program x, y or z, however, this initiative would prevent a new income tax. Unless lawmakers changed the law, if I-2111 passed, that is.

That is why Washington Policy Center suggests the state go even further and consider a constitutional amendment, which would be more effective than a statutory restriction in carrying out the will of the people.

As Olympic Peninsula resident and single father Eric Pratt put well, “I keep hearing people saying this measure does nothing, which is interesting because if this bill does nothing, what it’s doing is protecting us from something – something in the future. What we want is protection from future taxation.”

Taxes are already too many, Pratt said. “I’m a single father,” he said. “I don’t get any supportive services from the state. I do this with my own income with two kids. if the tax burden increases, it becomes harder and harder for people like me.” That’s the same point I tried to make, less well, earlier in testimony time. Kudos to Pratt.

Don’t believe that this initiative is too vague, sloppily written, confusing or unnecessary.

The state also has a budget surplus and plenty of money, making a strong case for not needing access to any more of our income. Sales, property and a plethora of other taxes and fees governments collect are paying the bills. Meanwhile, many individual and family budgets are hurting because of inflation and government inflation (tax increases).

Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and the director of the Centers for Health Care and Workers Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.

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