Columbian editorial favors legislation preempting local governments from adopting income taxes

The editorial board of the Columbian has endorsed proposed legislation that would preempt local governments from adopting income taxes.  

House Bill 2212 would prevent local governments from enacting an income tax upon residents…

Despite what appears to be settled law, the Seattle City Council is pursuing a local income tax. While it is tempting to think that if Seattle’s elected representatives want to tax local citizens that is their purview, it must be noted that what happens in Seattle doesn’t stay in Seattle. The city is the economic and cultural engine that drives the entire state, and all Washingtonians have a vested interest in that city’s business climate. In addition, if council members there succeed with their plan, it will open the door for other city or county governments to pursue similar action.

We wrote about the Seattle proposal earlier this month, noting also that the Seattle Times had editorialized against the measure

The Columbian discusses the “loophole” some in Seattle see as their way around the state constitutional prohibition on progressive income taxes.

Believing that they have found a loophole in the law, councilors there are proposing a tax upon “adjusted gross income” rather than “net income.” Basing the idea upon semantics rather than state law would ensure a lengthy and costly court battle while ignoring the oft-stated will of voters throughout the state.

If Seattle’s leaders wish to impose an income tax, they should seek to change the state constitution or revise state law rather than exploiting a loophole.

Pointing out that voters have consistently rejected personal income taxes in recent decades, the Columbian editorial writers say they’re open to some tax reform. Such efforts, though, should begin with the state.

But with the Legislature grappling to find a way to fund public schools, and with various changes to property tax levies and school levies being considered, some changes might be in the works. It would be prudent for local governments to see what comes out of Olympia before attempting to seize a robust taxing authority of their own.

It would be surprising to see the bill pass the Legislature during the special session. But, the Columbian does make a good point.