Spokane voters will have chance to ban local income taxes, just in case such things become legal.

Proposition 2 on the general election ballot in Spokane is something of a rarity: a preemptive strike against a tax that state law currently prohibits. We wrote about it last July. KXLY radio reports,

It’s illegal in the state of Washington to have a city income tax — Seattle tried to get around that earlier this year, but was denied. 

Still, City Council candidate Michael Cathcart wants to avoid the chance of it ever happening in Spokane. Voters will get their chance to vote on a measure to prohibit an income tax in Spokane.

“We felt like this was an opportunity to get ahead of the game and actually put a prohibition on our city charter, that says not only are we not going to have a city income tax, but we’re actually going to go as far as ban it,” Cathcart said.

Making the counter-argument.

Mayoral candidate and current City Council President Ben Stuckart said he opposes the measure.

“It’s illegal by state law for the city to do it, and nobody I’ve ever met in Spokane says we should have an income tax in the city of Spokane,” Stuckart said. “That’s really a solution looking for a problem.”

Washington Policy Center analyst Jason Mercier makes the case for the ban in a Spokesman-Review op-ed.

Imposing a local income tax is against state law, but local officials in at least one city (Seattle) have already tried to impose one anyway in hopes of forcing a court ruling that would allow local income taxes across the state.

And it might be working. In July, the state Court of Appeals opened the door for local income taxes everywhere. That shocking decision is now expected to eventually be before the state Supreme Court.

The Appeals Court is being asked to reconsider that strange opinion, but we’ll see. And, as Mercier writes,

Some state legislators are also pushing bills to let cities impose income taxes. These efforts are occurring even though statewide voters have rejected income tax ballot measures 10 times in a row.

The op-ed concludes,

Adoption of the measure would show that people want to safeguard the state’s second-largest city’s competitive advantage in having no income tax. Spokane voters can also send a clear message to lawmakers in Olympia – there is no appetite for an income tax in Washington state.

Worth watching.