Business writer calls state tax debate a “chair-swinging, bottle-tossing, mirror-smashing, western-saloon donnybrook.”

Whether the 2020 legislative session features a major tax policy debate is uncertain. There are a lot of reasons to run out the clock in a short 60-day session, particularly when the economy remains relatively strong, the budget balances, and reserves are adequate for the immediate challenge. Yet, the pressure for progressive tax reform will doubtless surface in the next twelve months, if not in the legislative session, then as a campaign issue.

Business writer Bill Virgin sees a contentious time ahead. In The News Tribune, he writes,

It’s tempting to regard proclamations that taxes will dominate the next 12 months of our endless political season, at least in this region and state, with a dismissive, “Thanks for stating the obvious — when aren’t taxes a big political issue?”

Here’s a news tip — taxes are going to be a big issue in the campaigns of 2020 — even more so than usual.

He makes a more than plausible case, citing passage of I-976, Tim Eyman’s announced candidacy for governor, Seattle’s income tax headed to the state Supreme Court, and more. Of the court’s impact,

…here’s also always the possibility the court could reverse decades of rulings and throw out the interpretation that Washington’s constitution does in fact ban an income tax.

Then the governor and Legislature could charge into the fray, with a carbon tax, a capital-gains tax or even an attempt to push through an income tax, figuring that political control in the state has sufficiently and permanently tilted to pro-tax forces. Or they might sit it out, figuring that 976 shows there’s still an anti-tax contingent of sufficient strength to cause trouble, and why unnecessarily rile up the electorate in an election year.

Even if  the governor and Legislature pass, others will not. Noting the presidential and Congressional tax debates ahead, Virgin says, in essence, that’s nothing.
As contentious as those fights will be, they’ll be nothing next to the chair-swinging, bottle-tossing, mirror-smashing, western-saloon donnybrook we’re already witnessing in this state.

We’ve referred previously to some of the likely tax policy consequences of I-976. There’s also the issue of the controversial banking tax being challenged in court.

Overall, it’s hard to disagree with Virgin’s conclusion.

Don’t think you can find a safe place to watch from the sidelines. You do have a dog in this fight. Everyone does.

Enjoy the coming months.

And stay tuned.