Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown has come out swinging for a state income tax—and on her blog no less!
This is big news because everyone in Washington's political world thinks income tax talk is an electoral third-rail and a logistical non-starter. What's more, Brown isn't proposing an income tax for every working citizen. Instead, she just wants to tax those with incomes of over $200,000 a year. Aka: The Rich.
As an idea, it makes a lot more sense than our regressive sales tax—which applies evenly to all citizens, and would be lowered by a penny under this proposal. Moreover, it's a wealth redistribution concept that Oregon voters approved earlier this year (meaning it's not unthinkable that it could fly here too).
The proposal Brown is backing would bypass legislative hurdles by sending a referendum on the Tax The Rich Income Tax (Plus Sales Tax Break for Everyone!)™ to voters. Conventional wisdom is that this referendum would go down hard because Washington voters hate income taxes, really hate them, hate them way, way more than they hate the fact that rich people pay a miniscule percentage of their income in sales taxes in this state compared to poor people, who pay a much more significant percentage of their incomes. (Hence the label: regressive tax.)
Maybe the referendum would go down hard. Maybe it doesn't even have enough votes in the legislature to get in front of voters anyway, and the question is moot. Maybe, even if it were to go to voters and win, it would be ruled unconstitutional (Washington's constitution has been interpreted to prohibit an income tax that's not evenly applied to everyone). But man, as a concept, it's a good idea.
And if there were any year to test whether the majority of voters are willing to tax the rich while giving a tax-break to themselves, this would be the one.