Washington cities ban local income taxes. And it’s being noticed.

We’ve not written much about the quiet campaign encouraging city officials in Washington to signal their opposition to municipal income taxes. But the effort bears mentioning, as it is now receiving national attention. Steve Malanga with the City Journal and Manhattan Institute writes.

Tax revolts are usually led by citizens, sometimes banding together into taxpayer groups. But in Washington State, the latest tax revolt is being engineered by cities and towns objecting to the Democratic-led state legislature’s attempt to impose a capital gains tax. Local officials fear that the new levy, which faces a court challenge, would be a prelude to a state income tax that could hamper economic growth and opportunity. Right now, the Evergreen State is one of only seven states without an income tax and one of just nine without taxes on capital gains.

Five Washington communities—Spokane, Yakima, Spokane Valley, Granger, and Battle Ground—have passed resolutions in recent weeks pledging to outlaw income taxes at the local level if the state adopts income or capital gains taxes. More jurisdictions are promising to follow suit. Local officials are intent on sending the state a message. “Small businesses are the backbone of our local, regional, state, and national economy and it is imperative that the city not put unnecessary hurdles in the way of their success,” Battle Ground’s resolution declared. “Citizens want good government that is fiscally responsible,” Republican state representative Chris Corry argued at a hearing in Yakima. “Putting an income tax ban locally shows a commitment to being fiscally responsible.”

That was about a month ago. We recommend the article.

Other cities have been added. TJ Martinell at The Lens writes,

The list of Washington cities voting to ban a local income tax is growing, with Kennewick and Moses Lake the latest municipalities to approve resolutions against it. While detractors continue to assert that the efforts are a waste of time, proponents argue they’re preventative measures in response to a 2019 Washington State Court of Appeals decision that overturned a 1984 state law prohibiting local income taxes. 

In the two years since that decision, the cities of Union Gap, Spokane, Spokane Valley, Yakima, Battle Ground, and Granger have all either passed resolutions prohibiting an income tax or voted to send such a proposal to voters.

“A few years ago, this would have seemed like a strange conversation to have,” Washington Policy Center Government Reform Director Jason Mercier told the Kennewick City Council at its Sept. 7 meeting. “But that all changed in 2017 when the city of Seattle wanted to test the legal waters.”

Mercier adds today,

Turns out the number of Washington cities with a local income tax ban is now up to seven. After posting my update on the Kennewick City Council adopting the local income tax ban resolutionthis week, I heard from a Moses Lake City Councilmember that his city also adopted a ban. He mentioned that since there wasn’t any press present at the meeting it didn’t receive any media coverage.

The Tri-City Herald editorializes,

Kennewick, like the majority of Washington cities, is not organized under a charter, but instead is authorized by the state to operate with a municipal code.

So its resolution opposing a city income tax does not carry the force of law and is not binding on future city councils.

Council members said it was important to show Kennewick residents where they stand on local income taxes.

Something to watch.