Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold has been one of the council's most outspoken supporters of a proposal to tax high earners in Seattle. Now, she wants to force her colleagues to take a position on the idea, too.
Herbold said this morning she plans to introduce a resolution setting a schedule for when the council will take up discussions on a city income tax. Her proposal calls for open consideration of an ordinance to create the tax by May 31 with the goal of passing it by July 10.
Lately, some elected leaders have scrambled to take credit for the idea of passing a local income tax—which is widely expected to be challenged in the courts—as a legal test case for changing Washington's regressive tax system. Others have dodged the question. Herbold's resolution will require council members who've been avoiding the issue to take a side.
The "guiding principle" in writing a city income tax, Herbold's resolution reads, will be to "chart the strongest possible legal path" in order to "test the constitutionality of a progressive income tax." In other words, the city council would be passing the income tax knowing full well they will get sued. State supreme court precedent classifies income as property, meaning all income must all be taxed at the same rate, preventing a progressive income tax that makes the wealthy pay.
Herbold and Council Members Kshama Sawant, Mike O'Brien, and Rob Johnson have expressed support for a coalition pushing the income tax idea and calling themselves Trump-Proof Seattle. Council Member Bruce Harrell joined them last week, saying, "the short answer is 'yes.'" Council Member Sally Bagshaw did not answer the question directly, saying in a statement she supports "a community conversation to reach agreement on the priorities we want to fund, the revenues to be raised, as well as restructuring our system to reduce the total tax bill for those most impacted by our regressive sales tax." Council Members Tim Burgess, Debora Juarez, and Lorena González have not provided an answer when asked by The Stranger whether they support a city income tax.
Trump-Proof Seattle has proposed a 1.5 percent tax on households that make more than $250,000 a year. Last week, former mayor and new mayoral candidate Mike McGinn said he supported a city income tax. At a candidate forum three days later, Murray said he would send a "high-end income tax” proposal to the city council, but did not specify what that proposal would look like. Herbold's resolution also does not specify details about the tax the council will consider.
Herbold says the mayor's office had input on the resolution and the city attorney's office reviewed it. She plans to introduce it for a full council vote next Monday.