In Washington state, it is very clear that an income tax is not legal, nor has it ever been supported by Washington state voters. The idea of an income tax in a variety of forms has been struck down by the Washington State Supreme Court, the Washington State Legislature, and the voters in this state many times. Whether statewide or at the local level, the courts, lawmakers, and voters have kept an income tax out of Washington for decades.
In 1933, the Washington State Supreme Court closed the door on a graduated state income tax. The majority supported the idea that income is property and therefore an income tax violated the state Constitution unless it was applied uniformly. However, this ruling hasn’t stopped an income tax from being proposed in the Legislature as well as on the ballot as an initiative.
According to the Washington Secretary of State, since a graduated income tax was struck down in 1933, different forms of a state income tax have been rejected by lawmakers and voters ten different times. Different forms of an income tax have appeared on the ballot as initiatives four different times since the 1933 court ruling, and have been rejected by the voters each and every time they appear on the ballot.
A graduated income tax has also been proposed at the local level. Olympia saw an income tax proposal on their 2016 general election ballots and it was rejected. In addition, Seattle and Port Townsend are taking steps to potentially implement a local income tax. Even though these two cities are pushing for the new tax, lawmakers have strongly rejected local income taxes. RCW 36.65.030 clearly states that “a county, city, or city-county shall not levy a tax on net income.”
After a historical court ruling, rejection by the Legislature and voters ten different times, and a failed attempt to create a local income tax, why is Seattle still trying to push for an unconstitutional and unwanted income tax? The law and the voice of the people could not be more clear: Washington should not have a state or local income tax.