Remember that strange Appeals Court decision in the Seattle income tax lawsuit? Surprising nearly everyone, the court ruled that the statutory prohibition on an income tax was passed in 1984 legislation that violated the single-subject rule. Specifically,
Because it is impossible to assess whether the broad prohibition on net income taxes would have passed without the bill’s unrelated provisions, SSB 4313 violated the single subject rule in article II, section 191.
Therefore, the ban is unconstitutional and…
We conclude Seattle has the statutory authority to adopt a property tax on income, but our state constitution’s uniformity requirement bars Seattle’s graduated income tax.
The Lens reports on a bipartisan push to put the genie back in the bottle,
Sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban (R-28) and cosponsored by 15 legislators including three Democrats, SB 6462 states that “a county, city, or city-county shall not levy a tax on net or gross income, except that this section does not prohibit the imposition of gross receipts taxes on businesses as otherwise allowed by state law.” Among the Democrat cosponsors is Majority Whip Mark Mullet (D-5), who is the capital budget chair for the Ways and Means Committee.
A similar proposal has been introduced by Rep. Drew Stokesbary via HB 2479, though it has no Democrat cosponsors.
Spokane voters have already opted to ban local income taxes, just in case the state Supreme Court agrees with the Appeals Court. And, as the Lens writes, most Washingtonians are opposed to local income taxes.
Aside from the legality of local income taxes, recent polling and election outcomes strongly suggest a lack of voter support. In November, Spokane voters approved an initiative banning a local income tax by 72 percent; roughly the same percentage of Washington voters favor a local income tax ban according to a recent survey by the Washington Policy Center.
In a related, but contrary move, 15 legislators have filed a brief urging the state Supreme Court to overturn the income tax prohibition. The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin editorial board says the pro-tax effort should be scuttled.
It’s an affront to good government and the state’s citizens, who have voted 10 times since 1960 to not allow an income tax. Six of those votes were specifically rejections of amending the state constitution.
If these 15 lawmakers want the opportunity to impose an income tax in cities or across the state, the option is to seek a seventh change to the state constitution.
Of course, it’s highly likely — as in close to certain — that such an effort would be strongly rejected once again by voters.
Highly likely, indeed.