We're Number One! Washington Retains "Most Regressive Tax Structure" Honors!


Christ on a bicycle, we can legalize gay marriage AND pot, but we can't fix this?! Goldy, tell us all what we should be doing to make it happen!
Don't they call that 'equity' around here when every one is treated the same?

"The culprit: Washington state's absurd over-reliance on the sales tax."

So a family making $20,000 a year—pay a crippling 16.9 percent, or $3380 in sales tax? THat's a lot of rims.
I have an idea Goldy, why not put an high earners income tax measure on the ballot?
So, according to the republican mantra, those states with the most regressive taxes should have the lowest unemployment (the whole "don't tax the 'job creators'" baloney).

Anyone have any data on that?
Bethany @1, Well, obviously, we need to tax income and/or intangible wealth. Politically, I think the most likely foot in the door would be some sort of high earners or capital gains tax dedicated toward a popular program like K-12 or early learning. But it's take a lot of work to educate voters.
But wait, don't you folks keep claiming WA is a "progressive" state. Or by state, do you mean certain parts of Capitol Hill and Fremont?
It's not just the sales tax, it's the large exemptions for corporate taxes and the lack of capital gains or asset taxes, as well as the property tax exclusions for "non-profit" (which is what rich people's hobbies are).
@4 There is no correlation. SD has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, NV one of the highest. The rest of the no-income tax states are mostly middling.
Of course, you still haven't won the income tax argument in the state supreme court let alone with voters ..... but keep chasing windmills!

What Will Eyman Allow?

First of all you can't put Texas and Washington in the same category because the property taxes in Texas are twice or higher what they are in Washington.

Property taxes are proper way to fund all the infrastructure, education and transit...and Texas does that successfully.

However, the biggest deadbeats around are the property owners who are paying a pittance compared to other states...and that's true even on a county by county basis...King County paying some of the smallest taxes, yet at the same time its residences yelping for premium governmental services!

Seattle if you want to find a culprit for the missing revenue, look in the mirror, homeowners. You're the cheats!

Scrap the sales tax and replace it with an income tax. I don't see what the problem is.
"I don't see what the problem is."

the problem? the people of Washington state who voted down an income tax by nearly 2/3s majority.

Or does equity = ignoring the will of the people?
This gives the poor incentive to work, cmon guys
When did all these moochers move into Washington State and demand an income tax? This state has done just fine without one for its entire history. This is a can-do state, not a 'gimme some of your money' state.
@ 3 We will but this time not in a GOP heavy year
Could somebody correct @11, please. It's a well known fact that we get less than we put in.
@ 15 Why don't you move to Oklahoma you right wing nut
@11 however, sales taxes on primary homes, with no limit on stakeholder exemptions, are non-existent in TX and FL. WA has a 1 percent tax.

This makes rich people more exempt, since there is a base exemption in WA state.
@18? Why? I like WA state and 2/3s of the great people of WA state agree with me, that we don't need an income tax. I'm perfectly at home here as a moderate.

However, it sounds like you're the one who needs to leave. I mean, the income tax even got its ass kicked in King County.
@18 You just have to get along with anon troll. He's awesome, especially when he goes into conniptions like this.

And, good on you Goldy for being brave enough to post this in Slog. Maybe we can make this post into an actual article, since Slog has been claimed to not have any journalistic integrity, by The Stranger staffers, but the articles carry some semblance of authority.

So where's the outrage? If our editorial boards had a shred of decency and fairness they would be screaming at lawmakers to fix this gross and embarrassing inequity.

Including The Stranger's editorial board! This is the second time they've acknowledged this on Slog in a whole 4 months. Once after nagging the shit out of Goldy in September, and now this time. How come you haven't been rallying against the regressive tax structure? How come you haven't made inquiries into how Olympia wants to fix it if they succeed in their lawsuit against 1185 and its ilk?

Why didn't The Stranger rally against the regressive tax increases in 2010? Why is The Stranger more concerned with increasing taxes, and the regressive tax structure, than with fixing our own tax structure? How can they claim to be progressive?

These are actually vital questions...
"We will but this time not in a GOP heavy year"

Huh? Were you not around for the debacle that was I-1098 under a Democrat governor, and both houses in Olympia under Democrat control? Didn't you notice how well Dems did in Washington State in 2012? What have you been smoking?
"good on you Goldy for being brave enough to post this in Slog"

Yes, like pulling his dick out at a gay cock sucking orgy. Very brave.
@23 Irony isn't your strong suit, is it...
@21 Nobody in Washington has written more extensively on tax regressivity than I have. From my very first post at HA, a manifesto of sorts:

I intend to help educate the public and the media about an astonishingly regressive tax system that gives billions of dollars of tax breaks to wealthy special interests while placing an almost unbearable burden on the backs of middle- and low-income families. I intend to work for real, progressive, tax reforms that provide meaningful relief to those who need it most, assure adequate funding for essential public services, and create the kind of positive, rational business environment that all citizens want.

No doubt when it comes to tax structure, I have failed to achieve my goals. Yet. But I don't accept as valid the criticism that, in the meanwhile, it is somehow hypocritical of me to support regressive taxes to fund necessary services, when those are the only taxes available. For example, given a choice between a regressive tax and dismantling our public transit system (as is happening in Pierce County), I'll choose the regressive tax, because that is the lesser of two evils.

I'm doing my best to work within the system that exists, while at the same time doing my best to change it. And I deeply regret that on that latter point, my best has not been good enough. But that's what I have to work with.
Obviously the numbers pointed out by Goldy show that we need a balance FARE approach when it comes to taxes in this state I know lots of people who fear out of control spending! Most of us are social liberals, but we still want some incentive that income taxes will need a super majority to EVER be raised! We need to sell an income tax like we sold legal Weed "New Approach Washington I-502" by Education on our broke tax system and incentives to the people that income taxes won't be misused!
"I have failed to achieve my goals. Yet."

Is that what you told your first wife too, just before she left you?
According to the latest data, the bottom 20 percent of Washington households—those earning less than $20,000 a year—pay a crippling 16.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes.

I agree that this figure is crippling, but a large chunk (more than the general sales tax) is from "Sales & Excise on Business." Are they talking about small business owners making less than 20,000 per year? That figure seems really high, so maybe I'm missing something.

Hopefully the legislature gets together and comes up with some honest income tax legislation. I abstained from voting for the previous one because their claims of "it'll only apply to people earning over 250,000 per year!" were horseshit; the state had every intention of lowering that cap the first chance they got. I'm not opposed to a state income tax, but I am opposed enough to politicians lying to my face that I wasn't willing to vote in favor of the measure. Put the actual plan on the ballot and I'll fill in the "yes" bubble.
"That figure seems really high, so maybe I'm missing something."

They want you to believe they are paying about $2000 a year in sales tax on $20k income, which means they are spending more than they earn on taxable consumer goods apparently. Must explain all the cars I see down in Skyway with $4000 rims.
@25 No, you haven't been trying your best to change it. You don't get off that easy by saying you have a manifesto to make a change about it. You mention it twice a year, at most. I think before September, the last time The Stranger made a statement about it may have been 2011? 2010?

You, and The Stranger, have been peddling the regressive tax structure for years. You, and The Stranger, have not made one iota of effort to actually inquire at, report on, or officially remark on change. You, and The Stranger, have been content to put the blame on Eyman and 1185 (and its preceding issues). The Stranger, in 2010, was completely content to go with the regressive tax structure during the lapse between Eyman Initiative #1 and Eyman Initiative #2.

If you're so intent on changing the system, FUCKING DO IT. Put this in the main paper. Make it a FEATURE. Give it pages by filling in with interviews from representatives, state senators, the proponents of the lawsuit against Eyman's initiatives.

But, if you're just going to shill for every regressive tax, without even noting its regressive nature, then you should STFU. You're not helping. You're just supporting and endorsing the tax system we have in place, giving you the special label of tax-and-spend liberal; it doesn't give you the label of progressive you probably want to be. At this point, it make take a complete breakdown of the system in order to fix it. I don't know what the answer is, but I know what the answer isn't.

And, your manifesto on HA isn't proof that you support that change. If anything, it is proof that you have failed to live up to your ideals.
@28 I do believe they are talking about S&E taxes that apply to businesses, who passes on the charges to us, the consumer.
@29: the breakdown for the lowest 20% is as such:

Sales & Excise Taxes 13.0%
split into:
General Sales—Individuals 4.1%
Other Sales & Excise—Ind. 4.1%
Sales & Excise on Business 4.8%
Property Taxes 3.9%
split into:
Property Taxes on Families 3.9%
Other Property Taxes 0.1%

Total: 16.9%.

I think their general sales taxes figures are about right.
"Sales & Excise Taxes 13.0%"

@32 So consume less, buy second hand. Isn't that the green mantra? Anyone spending 10% of their income on sales tax, while making $20K a year, is a fucking idiot.
Perhaps we should elect some democratic leaders......oh wait
The ONLY way I'd approve an income tax measure is if includes writing into the state constitution that a sales tax will never again be part of our tax structure here. (Funny, but the assurances of the legislature that they won't bring back a sales tax aren't enough here.) I've lived in states with both income and sales tax, and it sucks hind tit. Pick one and stick to it. But both at the same time, plus property taxes? HELL NO.

But you income tax proponents don't want that, do you? No, you want your income tax to be added on top of a sales tax, so we have both crushing us 99%-ers into poverty. No, you'd rather let the state keep its sales tax receipts AND foist upon us the annual drudgery of income tax returns, too. And I'm not fooled by the "oh, it'll apply only to the wealthy" cry, either. The first thing the state will do will be to lower the bar on the definition of "wealthy."

I absolutely will never, ever vote to burden state residents with both tax structures. Pick one or the other. I'll grudgingly get on board. Until then, I pay more than enough, thank you.
@30 Google "Goldy regressive tax site:thestranger.com" and "Goldy regressive tax site:horsesass.org" -- I'd wager you'll find dozens of posts by me on the topic.

So no, I don't buy your premise. At all.
"I absolutely will never, ever vote to burden state residents with both tax structures."

Luckily the vast majority of Washington State agrees with you. This is a pipe dream. Let the loony left chase their windmills.
@30: I think you're full of shit on this one, speaking as a non-Washingtonian who's been reading Slog lo these many years and has seen Goldy inveigh against your regressive tax structure on many occasions.

But, damn, WA, that is some depressing company to be leading.
@36 in print, you have not mentioned it in all of 2012. Not in your features, nor your news. And never once in all of your features.

So far, on google, after 50 pages, I found literally 4 slog posts mentioning regressive tax structure in the post itself. One of which was acknowledging we have one and saying we aren't paying enough taxes anyways.

Should I go further? I'm finding "dozens" hard to believe.

P.S. you can check your features yourself quite easily. Just click on Goldy, and there's a menu for it. No need to Google.
In fact, the last time our regressive tax system got any sizable print in an article penned or co-penned by you were a handful of paragraphs buried in an Occupy article in October 2011 with a short interview with Hanauer.
If you think this is appalling and should change, do be sure to contact your representatives. Complaining on the internet changes very little.
Goldy wants us to believe that people making $20,000 a year or less spend about $18,000 of their income on consumer items that have sales and excise tax. You know, rims and sounds systems.

If you believe that bullshit, you'll believe anything.
@41 I have. Mine think that a Capital Gains tax will solve everything. Feckless nitwits they are.

Goldy, and Emma's Bee, here's a link for ease of clickitude.
"speaking as a non-Washingtonian "

Then surely you know 2/3s of this great state voted against an income tax just 2 years ago? Stay where you are why don't you, and don't lecture the Great State of Washington on how we should run our affairs.
Property tax is where it's at.

Don't nobody own property. You didn't build that, that land/property was here for millions of year before you. Want to put something on it, like a house or a building or parking lot or dirt farm? Pay up, you owe society for the right to claim that land.
"Don't nobody own property"

Do me a favor. Test that theory if you have the balls.
Better think twice about kicking all the rich people out of the state, a high percentage of a dollar is a lot less than a small percentage of thousands.......or is the Stranger just bad at math.
So I'm confused. How do low income houses buy more taxable stuff? Don't higher income houses buy more stuff? What am I missing? Oh and don't forget property taxes - things evil rich people pay more of.
When I saw that chart I thought "A fool and his money are easily parted."

The key takeaway is: don't be stupid and let the government take a bunch of your money.

However, because the poor use more government services than the rich, its only fair they pay more...
"don't be stupid and let the government take a bunch of your money. "

Well if the poor are paying 16% of their income in taxes in WA state, mainly in sales and excise taxes (aka cigarettes and Colt 45), they are spending more on consumer goods than they earn apparently. It's those fucking rims and sound systems I guess.
@48 yes and no. Poor people spend all their money, so S&E taxes are the highest percentage of their income. Soon after you get out of the lowest tax bracket, you have untaxable wealth like 401(k) savings and other things. As you get even higher, last I remembered, there were even tax breaks on luxury items like fur coats, luxury cars, and planes and other such items, with the logic being that rich people could go elsewhere to buy shit without being taxed for it, but if we keep them in state they won't leave. Also, it's supposed to entice other big spenders to come buy luxury items and spend money at other auxiliary places like hotels, rental cars, and restaurants.

I need citation for that last two bits because I'm not sure what was getting tax breaker or if it got repealed (or if it existed in the first place, but I'm sure I read about it in Seattle Times or P-I).

@49 That logic is "I've got mine, fuck you." It's terrible and it should be stated as terrible. We're all in this together...or we should be except the rich people and people like you keep saying fuck you to the people they're above.
@51 That logic is fuck you, I want your shit.

No sales tax on high end cars and furs? Just make shit up why don't you.
@52 You're right. The article I found mentioned that we had sales tax exemptions on things like cosmetic surgeries and exemptions for all personal property taxes to all non-residents.

It then mentioned that people came from out of state to buy things like fur coats and luxury items without paying the sales tax. But, it was a fucking poorly written article, which put the two things together like there was a sales tax exemption specifically on fur coats.

Stupid crappy articles.

TheMisanthrope @ nearly every other comment: You're completely wrong to claim we haven't adamantly supported progressive taxation--I've made it a priority of our coverage since I became news editor. From before the 2010 campaign, in our endorsement, through the election cycle, and even after the vote, we supported a high-earners income tax as a way of ending the regressive tax structure. We even kept up the drumbeat for progressive taxation the year after that initiative failed. There's tons more over the years: op-eds, polling analysis, frequent posts about regressive taxation, etc. I'm not going to waste any more time on your fake argument except to say that the SECB even based many of its endorsements last year primarily on those candidates who we believed were capable of advancing an income tax, both in our primary election and in our general election endorsements. Your line of attack, as usual, is easily disproven bullshit.

@54: But that's just like, your opinion, man.
@54 - The Stranger has been the ONLY organization for progressive taxation in Washington. And that's part of the problem. There isn't any voice for it statewide. Bill Gates, Sr. for all the good work that he's done, somehow managed to not convince his son to be an advocate for it. And tax reform would take that kind of money and high profile in the face of people like Eyman and his backers (who ironically spend far more on initiatives than they would in paying taxes).
@54 I think its telling that of ALL the links you posted, the majority were in 2010. So, you mentioned it twice, in print, in ALL of 2012. And, exactly once in print in 2011.

Oh yeah, that's a strong drum beat. BTW, 10 links over the course of 3 years is 3.33 links per year (and that's INCLUDING slog). That's a HUGE drum beat man. Really fucking loud. /Sarcasm

Look, Dominic, if The Stranger spent as much ink bleating about the progressive tax structure as they do about bikes vs cars (two columns in the paper in two weeks), or pot (you alone have 3 pot-exclusive articles over the past year), or even as much digital ink and real ink as you guys spend bitching about Eyman's initiatives, I wouldn't be on here bitching about how you're not beating the regressive tax structure drum hard enough, or loud enough.

You're entitled to your opinion, but the drum you beat for regressive taxation is quiet and small.
@57 You have this weird fetish about print. Print may be where the bulk of our ad revenues come from, but our online audience is much larger.

Also, I know some might disagree, but we're a NEWSpaper. That means that our primary obligation is to cover the news, not create it. On Slog I'm free to do all the advocacy I want, as long as I get my other chores done. But in the paper, we mostly write about current events. And currently, there's little opportunity to write about implementing an income tax.
@58 There's a lot of opportunity to write about implementing an income tax. There's this new study. There's the current lawsuit going through regarding the Eyman initiatives. There's the tolls on both the tunnel and the bridges. There was the car tabs. FFS, you're the king of conflation. You conflated a whole post about a nightclub fire into a gun control post. If I could write as well as some people, I would be hammering this point home again and again in wherever I got hired to write.

Even in your post about the bridge tolls you posted 39 minutes before you put up this asinine comment, you failed to mention regressive taxes, when tolls and fees are some of the most severely regressive taxes in existence. Thank god for some of the commenters.
As an accountant and auditor these numbers look incredibly sketchy to me. First off the term sales tax and excise tax is a bit miss leading because the sales tax is an excise tax. The other well know excise tax in our state is the business & occupation tax. Low income businesses do not pay the B&O tax because there is a small business tax credit that precludes the first $40k of service income. Retailers and wholesalers can make up to about $95k before the tax kicks in.

So lets start with the premise that low income equals a family of 4 making $30,000 a year.
16.9% of that is $5,070.

So lets say a low income family of 4 making $30k a year in Seattle had this budget

Rent - $9000 - ($750/month) (non taxable) For this exercise they are not homeowners. Sure if they owned a million dollar mansion they would pay a ton of property taxes.

groceries - $7800 ($150/week) (non taxable)

Eating out/taxable grocies $4200 - Cigerettes & liquor have an extremely high tax rate. Soda is the usual 9.5%. Eating out has the normal sales tax rate of 9.5%. It was 10% until September of 2011 (expiring stadium taxes) I assume some of that data went into their analysis. Well thats assuming that they did any analysis and didn't just make up a number.

Utility Bills - $3000 (gas, electric, water&sewer, garbage, phone, tv, internet)
The taxes on gas, electric, water & sewer are not super high and low income earners can apply for a credit or discount. TV , Internet taxes, and phone are moderate (less than 5%)
There are also low income programs available to get free cell service.

Consumer goods - $5000 (taxable) (clothes, school supplies, makeup, electronics, appliances) are generally taxed at 9.5% in seattle.

Gas/Transportation - $3000 We do have the highest gas tax in the nation, but our public transporation is heavily subsidized. So if your driving a car you're definitely paying more in taxes, if taking the bus you're paying next to nothing in taxes on your transportation dollars.

So in a nutshell if we start with $30k, throw out rent & groceries, we are left with $13,200.
The original premise is that this family would have to pay $5070 in state & local taxes to equal 16.9%. So the effective tax rate on the remaining $13,200 of income which i illustrated above is hardly completely disposable would have to be 38.4%.

I'm not making an argument for or against regressive taxes. I'm just saying those that do make an arguement should be be honest with the data they provide.

If you are truly an accountant and auditor remind me to be glad that I don't live in your area.

First: When doing this exercise you have to run the numbers for both renters and homeowners. If you don't do this you are deliberately skewing the numbers to the low end. Altho by not taking the portion of their rent that goes to the property owners taxes into account you are also being deliberately dishonest in running the numbers. Everyone with a dwelling that they pay for is paying that property tax. Rent may be non-taxable but that is only because the tax is built into the price. Anyone that doesn't understand that really needs a lesson in economics.

Next: When you note that low income earners can apply for a credit or discount on some taxes you are assuming that a) they know they can apply and b) that they actually will do so. Figure out how many qualify for those credits and discounts and how many actually take advantage of them when running your numbers.

Same section: You are quite correct in noting that taxes on the internet are low. By Federal law they are non-existent. You can be taxed on things you purchase over the internet (subject to current and future lawsuits by various companies on the internet) but internet access in and of itself has ZERO taxes on it. This is something you should know. If you want to know what happens when a fee of any sort (and yes the Federal Government considers fees and taxes to be identical in some situations) gets applied to internet access just ask the cell phone companies how many millions they paid out. But then again as an accountant and auditor you knew all that and were just sloppy in typing it out right? You can charge all you want for the phone and cable but you don't get to tax internet access. If state of WA is taxing internet access without Federal approval (and it would take an act of congress to get that approval) then I really pity your state budget when the feds tell the state to a) refund ALL of those taxes and b) pay the feds x amount in penalties for doing something they know they aren't allowed to do.
Previous income tax initiatives crash and burn because they're not tied to the outright removal of another tax. Poors and mids won't vote for it, because they're heavily overburdened already, and the rich won't, because they're a bunch of moochers.
Poor people get the advantage of the earned income tax credit.
I find that the stupidest thing that is going on is taxation on cars. A car could be bought and sold multiple times and washington state makes out good on the deal. Fuck the state and their screwed up tax rates. I hope you aren't in the top 1% because at one point it's going to come to a head with that lower 99% comes and takes what they want from the 1%. Get your shit together politicians and fix this shit before we kick the 1%'s ass. "It's people", "Soylent green is people".