One of the things for which Kshama Sawant's critics love to make fun of her is her call for a millionaires tax to fund transit expansion. "We don't have the authority," an exasperated Richard Conlin exclaimed at a recent candidates forum, "We can't do that in this city."

Silly girl.

But we can do that in this city. And in fact, we must do that in this city if we're ever going to have a hope of passing an income tax statewide.

First, let's dismiss with the common misconception about taxing authority: There is nothing in the state Constitution or the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) that explicitly denies municipal governments the authority to levy an income tax. Nothing. Go ahead—take a look. The legal barrier to an income tax stems from a 1933 state Supreme Court decision that defines income as property (every other court in the nation considers income to be a transaction), thus making an income tax unfeasible by subjecting it to the same constitutional and statutory limits as our property tax (a 1 percent aggregate cap, uniform rates, a maximum $15,000 exemption, and so on).

But there are two kinds of taxes under state law: Property taxes and, well, everything else. The sales tax, the B&O tax, the gas tax, the syrup tax, the oil spill response tax, etc.—these are all forms of excise taxes that are defined and regulated within the RCW. Many of these excise taxes are "privilege taxes"—taxes imposed on the privilege of engaging in a specific economic activity—and state law restricts cities' abilities to impose nearly every privilege tax you can conceive of. But earning income is not one them. Because, why bother? A local income tax has been unfeasible since 1933, so state lawmakers never saw the need to restrict or prohibit local governments from imposing one.

And cities have the authority to levy any privilege tax not explicitly restricted or denied to them under state law.

This is an important point. Because the legal question raised should Seattle voters, say, pass an initiative imposing a tax on the privilege of earning an income in excess of $1 million is not whether the city has the authority to impose a privilege tax without prior state authority, but whether this tax is unconstitutional based on its apparent violation of the uniformity clause and the aggregate cap. In other words, this is an initiative that would bring the underlying constitutional question of the 1933 ruling—is income property?—back before the state Supreme Court.

I'm no constitutional scholar, but respected attorneys like Hugh Spitzer and Bill Gates Sr. believe that there is a good chance that a modern court would overturn that outdated 1933 ruling. Precedent counts for a lot, but as the Robert's court routinely demonstrates, not everything. So who knows?

If the court upholds the 1933 decision, then fuck. A constitutional amendment would be the only solution, and we're never going to get that, the political establishment will tell you, so why even bother talking about an income tax? Which is pretty much the can't-do attitude we're faced with now.

But if the court overturns the 1933 decision, then Katie bar the door! First, we'd have a millionaire's tax here in Seattle—exactly what Sawant's critics claim we cannot do. But more importantly, without the 1933 decision for politicians to hide behind, we'd finally be able to force a statewide conversation on tax reform. It won't be easy. It won't be quick. But at least an income tax would be on the table. And that's the first step toward making a statewide income tax politically possible.

But to have that conversation we need to overturn the 1933 ruling, and to get that issue before the court, we need to pass an income tax somewhere. And that somewhere is Seattle, the city where 2010's Initiative 1098—the high earners income tax—passed with 68 percent of the vote at the same time anti-tax fucktards throughout the rest of the state defeated the measure by an equally impressive margin.

Seattleites can no longer afford to wait for Olympia to act to address our needs. Like we did on paid sick leave—like we're about to do on the minimum wage and on universal preschool—progressive Seattle needs to take the lead on progressive taxation, and then drag the rest of the state with us. Either that, or we can just quietly watch our region's competitiveness eaten away by our regressive and unsustainable tax structure.