Former 13th District Senator Harold Hochstatter used to say, “The issue isn’t the issue; who decides the issue is the issue.”
Right now, that is never more relevant than when talking about a state income tax.
In Olympia, Democrats will tell you there is no interest in a state income tax, yet just Tuesday, they proposed a capital gains tax as part of their proposal to raise $8 billion in taxes over the next four years. Democrats will also tell you a capital gains tax is not an income tax – despite past precedence in court rulings stating otherwise.
The desire for an income tax is nothing new for our progressive friends, but with state revenues at historic levels, I thought this legislative session would be a good time to put the income tax talk to rest.
Early in the session I proposed a constitutional amendment, House Joint Resolution (HJR) 4207, to prohibit a state income tax. There was also a resolution introduced in the Senate.
In fact, the companion resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 8204, to my resolution was debated and voted on in the Senate but failed by a vote of 27-22 (it needed 33 votes or 60 percent to pass). During debate, Democrats stated the resolution was a waste of time and there was not enough support in the state for an income tax. If that is truly the case, why not pass the resolution and be done with it? I will tell you why: they are not done with it.
Remember the quote…who decides the issue is the issue.
Unfortunately, proponents of a state income tax are looking for a sympathetic court to decide the issue. Last fall, they took their test case to Olympia. Income tax supporters placed a local income tax measure on the ballot. Thankfully voters rejected it, but if it had passed, it surely would have been challenged in court.
Seattle has become the latest testing ground. The website trumpproofseattle.org, put together by the Transit Riders Union, specifically talks about an income tax on those making more than $250,000, how much revenue it will generate, when they can expect it after the court challenges, and how to move forward.
Our state Supreme Court has indirectly called for an income tax to fund education. House Democrats have indicated the capital gains tax would go toward funding education. We have $3 billion in additional revenue this biennium – that is taxpayer dollars. Why are they looking to raise more taxes on you, the citizens of Washington state?
There is a strong likelihood the question of whether or not a “capital gains or excise tax” is an “income tax” is headed to the courts. The proposed capital gains tax could be that first step income tax proponents are looking for.
We need to make sure the court is not in a position to weigh in, because we know this would not end well for the taxpayers of Washington.
We have an opportunity to pass the constitutional amendment and support what the voters of Washington state have told us multiple times over the last 80 years – no state income tax.
Former Sen. Hochstatter is correct. This issue isn’t the issue, it is who decides the issue – and the voters have decided this issue, many times. A state income tax should not be on the table in any form – income tax, capital gains tax or excise tax.
Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, is the House Republican assistant floor leader. He also serves on the House Labor and Workplace Standards, Appropriations and the Technology and Economic Development committees.