Thursday, June 13, 2024

Legislature approves initiative banning state income tax amidst public support and equity concerns

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OLYMPIA - An initiative prohibiting imposition of a state income tax was approved on March 5 by the state Legislature.

“This is a great day for everyone in Washington,” said Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, Walsh. “Codifying Washington’s long-standing tradition of opposing any state tax on personal income will help working families and local economies…When common-sense conservative policies lead the way, things get better for everyone.”

At the hearing on the initiative, every chair in the joint Senate and House hearing was full and citizens lined up outside the door as citizen-led initiative 2111 was heard. 

Overwhelmingly, people signed in to testify in favor of adopting this initiative. 

“Taxpayers are waking up to the fact that the problem is not more money for government. It's a need for better policy,” said Steve Cordon from Concerned Taxpayers of Washington State said. “This lack of trust is really the reason that this initiative is necessary.”

Not all spoke in favor, pointing out that Washington’s tax system is regressive. People with lower incomes pay a higher percentage of their incomes than people at the top of the income scale.

Microsoft manager Sharon Chen said she is one of the 0.2% of Washingtonians who pay the capital gains excise tax. She spoke out about supporting a more equitable tax code in Washington State.  

“Shouldn’t the wealthiest pay our share?” Chen asked. “Washington has one of the most upside-down tax codes in the country and wealthy people like me pay a lower effective tax rate here than in almost any state in the country, and low-income Washingtonians pay a tax rate of 3 times higher than the wealthiest Washingtonians.”

According to the Washington Department of Revenue, low-income households pay 15.7 percent of their income for all excise and property taxes, while the wealthiest households pay only 4.4 percent. 

A city council member in Port Angeles, Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin, said Port Angeles struggles yearly to maintain roads and parks, pay wages to sustain staff, and improve resident safety and welfare. The city has made the state tax structure a major legislative priority. 

“For poor communities like ours, decades of disinvestment have left us unable to afford to address our communities' needs,” Schromen-Wawrin said. “We need the state to step up and raise revenue from the ultra-wealthy and individuals and corporations throughout Washington state that are able to pay what they owe.”  

The initiative passed out of the Senate and House and will be delivered to the office or the Secretary of State. It takes effect 90 days after the end of the session. 

Sen. Lyna Wilson (R-Vancouver) the Operating Budget leader thinks this is a great action for the state. 

“It assures us at least through this year that an income tax cannot be created,” Wilson said. “Not having an income tax is a benefit for us. People move in because there is no income tax.”

The Washington State Journal is a non-profit news website funded by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.

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