We first ran this map five years ago. This year, Washington remains the state with the most regressive tax system in the country with little sign of change on the horizon.
We first ran this map five years ago. This year, Washington remains the state with the most regressive tax system in the country with little sign of change on the horizon. The Stranger

The Seattle City Council is in a weird limbo right now. They've finished their biggest piece of legislation of the year—the 2016 budget—and a third of them are now lame ducks until they get replaced in January.

But they still have to get some stuff done, and one of those things is setting the city's wish list for the legislative session in Olympia, which starts on January 11.

Among the top priorities for next year, according to the city's Office of Intergovernmental Relations: More money to fight homelessness, more "affordable housing tools" and tenant protections, and the ability to use fees charged on developers (known as "impact fees") to fund transit.

On Monday, the council approved a longer version of that list, but it's maddeningly vague. Apparently, that's intentional.

Here are a few excerpts:

We support common sense, responsible solutions to reduce gun violence and we believe that local governments should have the ability to regulate firearms or weapons to ensure the safety of their communities in accordance with local circumstances.

The City of Seattle supports efforts to reduce domestic violence and protect our most vulnerable citizens from abuse. We also support strengthening criminal consequences for sexual exploitation.

We support comprehensive tax reform that leads to a more equitable and progressive tax structure and decreases reliance on flat tax sources like sale and property taxes.

Consider that last one. Why, in Seattle City Hall of all places, can't we just say what we mean? Seattle wants a state income tax to pay for things like our unconstitutionally underfunded school system.

"I do [want a state income tax] and I’ve said that," Council President Tim Burgess told me when I asked him about this. "I think it goes to: What are we going to put forward that we have a reasonable chance of achieving? Where are we going to place our energy? I don’t believe the legislature this session is going to adopt an income tax."

The Washington State Legislature is a largely dysfunctional hellhole that's half controlled by Republicans and rarely friendly to Seattle's most progressive wishes. With another seat (the 30th Legislative District) won by a Republican this year, Democrats now have the slimmest majority in the state House they've had since 2002, according to the Seattle Times. That means it'll continue to be tough for Seattle to get its way in Olympia. But the city has to keep trying anyway, so it sends lobbyists down to the capitol with a list of priorities.

Burgess admitted the city's legislative agenda is "frustratingly broad" until after specific bills have been introduced in Olympia and the city starts to take positions on those.

Both Burgess and Nick Licata (who's chair of the council's budget committee) also said there's a political calculation taking place here. Seattle's support for certain policies can make them unattractive to moderates in Olympia.

"One of the perceptions people have—those people would be our lobbyists and probably electeds here—is that even though Seattle has the largest concentration of people, we're also viewed as outliers because of our political drift," Licata says. Because of that, moderates may hesitate to align themselves with Seattle-supported policies. In some cases, Licata says, "we support [a policy], but we don’t want to be leading the charge… because our natural allies wouldn’t want to be allied with ultra-liberal Seattle."

While the list is mostly vague, it does include a few specifics on narrow issues. The legislative agenda calls for expanding source of income discrimination protections for renters, which I wrote about here, and a call to "repeal or modify" the ban on rent control. (That phrase—"repeal or modify"—was only added after an e-mail back-and-forth between the Office of Intergovernmental Relations and Kshama Sawant's office.)

Read the full 2016 legislative agenda here.