Seattle, fastest growing city in the nation, engaged in flawed pursuit of municipal income tax, say former AG and former Supreme Court justice

Seattle’s booming economy shows few signs of lagging. Aaron M. Renn writes at the New Geography blog,

Seattle tops the growth charts among the top 25 cities in the Census Bureau’s latest release of 2016 city and town population estimates.

Seattle, a land-locked (no annexation) city in the Pacific Northwest with a limited history of high density, managed to add 20,847 people last year, a growth rate of over 3% – tops among the 25 largest cities. Seattle has added about 94,000 people just since 2010. That’s over 15% growth. The total population growth in Seattle last year was about the same as that in New York City. Even if you rank by total change instead of percentage, Seattle would still be 5th out of the top 25 – ahead of some much larger places and some much sprawlier places.

That’s impressive growth, which Renn attributes, in part, to the region’s “nova hot” tech economy, linking to this story in the Economist. The city’s success, as we’ve written, contrasts with the state’s more rural areas that continue to combat sluggish economies and relatively high unemployment. Nationayll, as in our state, urban and rural communities are divided by economics, politics and culture 

Which helps explain Seattle’s decision to challenge the state’s long-standing opposition to a personal income tax. Arguably, a personal income tax would inhibit growth.

Seattle is the fastest-growing big city across the U.S., but a potential new income tax would sway folks away from the area and negatively affect its bustling business ecosystem.

That’s what Steve Ballmer told KIRO Radio this week, with the former Microsoft CEO noting how an income tax, which is currently moving through city council and would target Seattle’s wealthiest residents, could cause an “unfavorable business climate.”

Former state Attorney General Rob McKenna and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander think the proposition will not be put to the test, however. In a Seattle Times op-ed, they write,

Now, Seattle City Council wants to pass an illegal income tax, mincing no words in a May Day resolution that it intends to adopt a citywide income tax by midsummer. This proposed measure ultimately will fail.

They cite the state constitution, statute, and court precedent to back up their analysis. (Alexander last year wrote an op-ed with the mayor of Olympia explaining why that city’s proposed income tax was illegal and unwise.)

McKenna and Alexander close with a bit of free legal advice :

The City Council should abandon its effort to rush forward with its illegal and ill-considered ordinance.

Sensible counsel. Any bets on whether the Council will change direction?