Opinion: Protecting taxpayers with income tax ban isn’t a ‘red herring’

Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center explains why claims that no one in Washington is talking about an income tax is not accurate

Jason Mercier
Washington Policy Center

As more cities act to ban a local income tax, detractors claim this effort to protect taxpayers is a waste of time. I really wish there wasn’t a concerted effort to bring the state of Washington and its cities an income tax. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. 

Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center explains why claims that no one in Washington is talking about an income tax is not accurate.
File photo.

The claims that proposals to ban a local income tax are “a red herring” and that “no one is talking about an income tax” reminds me of the debate during the past decade in the legislature. Similar arguments were made during the 2017 floor debate on SJR 8204, a proposed constitutional amendment to ban any type of state income tax (see 1:49:20 min mark of floor debate).

Jason Mercier
Jason Mercier

What has happened since SJR 8204 (income tax ban) failed to advance in 2017? The legislature has adopted a capital gains income tax (while refusing to pre-empt cities from imposing a local one) with the stated goal from supporters of using the courts to open the door to income taxes across the state. The legislature has also funded budget studies to convince Washingtonians to support an income tax, with a taxpayer funded commission now traveling the state to do the same. The Court of Appeals in response to Seattle’s effort to impose a city income tax also struck down (on a technical single subject violation) the 1984 state law that explicitly prohibited local income taxes.

If no one is really talking about imposing an income tax, then there isn’t any harm in allowing citizens and employers to make that crystal clear by re-affirming what the state Department of Commerce has repeatedly called our “competitive advantage” of no income taxes.

As the legislature and income tax advocates have repeatedly demonstrated, what some claim is an income tax “red herring” is actually an effort to stop the anti-competitive kraken from rising out of the sea. Failing to act is the true waste of time.

Jason Mercier is the director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center.
This opinion piece was produced and first published by the Washington Policy Center. It is published here with the permission of and full attribution to the Washington Policy Center.

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