Former Chief Justice, Mayor: Olympia income tax initiative flawed, unworkable, illegal

In a commentary in the Olympian, former state Supreme Court  chief justice Gerry Alexander and Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby make the case against Initiative 1, which would establish an income tax in the city. 

It asks Olympia residents to approve a 1.5 percent income tax on household incomes over $200,000 to pay the equivalent of a year’s community college tuition for high school graduates and GED earners.

But this is not about going to college; it’s about going to court — at the city’s expense — to see whether the current state Supreme Court will overrule past decisions declaring that a graduated income tax such as this one is unconstitutional.

After that setup, they point to several substantive problems: it the measure passes, the city would be required to go to court to defend it at taxpayer expense; state law prevents cities from collecting an income tax; and, the IRS cannot share income tax data with cities, which means the city would have to set up a bureaucracy to obtain and process tax returns. There’s more, including this:

…Olympia is not an island with captive taxpayers. Passing an income tax would create an incentive for affluent families to settle in Lacey, Tumwater or in unincorporated parts of the county.
State Rep. Sam Hunt and para-educator Clark Gilman wrote the commentary for the initiative.
It’s surprising the measure made it to the ballot at all. In August, a Superior Court judge ruled the initiative went beyond the scope of local initiative power. That decision was appealed and an appellate court commissioner allowed the initiative to appear on the ballot. And, as we’ve written, a prominent legal scholar and income tax proponent has said that the initiative is unlikely to pass constitutional muster
Regardless, in an odd political year, the results from Olympia November 8 will bear watching.