Town Hall

With the city of Seattle, and now some state lawmakers, continuing the push for a local income tax, state Rep. Brandon Vick has again introduced legislation that would prevent local governments from implementing an income tax.

House Bill 1588, with 16 co-sponsors, would prevent local governments from imposing an income tax on an individual’s or household’s income. It is similar to legislation Vick introduced in May of 2017 in response to the cities of Seattle, Olympia and Port Townsend trying to find a way around the local income tax law.

“Once again, this measure clarifies the prohibition on the ability of local governments to impose an income tax,” said Vick, R-Vancouver. “This issue is not going away until we tighten the local income tax statutes even further. Despite many of us believing that current law is clear, Seattle along with the support of legislators in the Puget Sound region are pushing the state Supreme Court to allow an income tax.”

In January, the Washington State Supreme Court declined to take up a lower-court ruling that struck down Seattle’s income tax and instead sent the case to the Court of Appeals. However, the city of Seattle indicated they were not giving up and were taking their arguments to the Court of Appeals.

Since then, several Democrat lawmakers have filed an amicus brief arguing Seattle and cities across Washington state already have the right to impose an income tax.

Town Hall
From left: Representative-elect Larry Hoff, Senator Ann River, and Representative Brandon Vick.

“With local governments and now some lawmakers in Olympia working in favor of an income tax, along with the governor’s push for a capital gains income tax, someone needs to stand up and protect our taxpayers,” said Vick. “Voters in Washington state have repeatedly rejected income tax proposals. Let’s quit ignoring them and pass this bill once and for all.”

Washington state voters have rejected a statewide income tax seven times since the Washington State Supreme Court overturned Initiative 69 in 1933. The latest being in 2010 when the proposed income tax measure failed in all 39 counties with a 64 percent “no” vote.

“The drive to implement local and capital gains income taxes comes at a time when we are seeing record taxpayer revenues come into the state,” said Vick.

Current Washington state law reads “a county, city, or city-county shall not levy a tax on net income.” It is a result of Camas’ Citizen of the Century and former Sen. Hal Zimmerman introducing Senate Bill 4313 in 1984. He drafted the legislation in response to an Attorney’s General (AG) opinion initiated by questions from Clark County. Zimmerman wanted to clear up any doubt created by the AG opinion about city-county government being able to have an income tax.

Vick’s bill has been referred to the House Finance Committee. The Legislature’s 105-day session is scheduled to adjourn on April 28.

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