Senate’s minority Democrats vote down proposed income-tax ban

OLYMPIA…The Democrat minority in the state Senate today voted against a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban a tax on individual incomes.

Senate Joint Resolution 8204 needed a two-thirds majority to pass – meaning 33 votes from the 49-member Senate. All 25 members of the Senate majority supported the measure, but only two members of the Democrat minority went along. Had the measure passed and also been approved by the state House of Representatives, it would have been submitted to the voters in November for their approval.

“I have heard many Democrats deny supporting an income tax. So, if they don’t support it why not vote for this amendment?” said SJR 8204’s sponsor, Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn. “Actions speak louder than words. A vote against this amendment was a clear vote in favor of an income tax. Maybe not today, but someday.”

SJR 8204 was introduced because of concerns surrounding the growing conversation surrounding income-tax proposals as a method to increase tax revenues for state and local governments.

The amendment would have banned state, city and county governments from taxing individual incomes. This ban would have included taxes on capital gains, wages and investments.

In 1933 the Washington Supreme Court ruled that a graduated income tax is unconstitutional. Since that ruling, Washington voters have rejected an income tax nine times, most recently in 2010.

Recently, municipal income taxes have been proposed. Last November, voters in Olympia rejected a municipal income tax. This week, advocates in Seattle proposed a 2.5 percent municipal income tax. Fortunato believes such a tax, if approved, is certain to face a legal challenge.

Today, he added, income-tax advocates seem convinced that if the high court has a chance to revisit the issue it will reverse its 1933 decision.

Washington would not be the first state to ban an income tax through a constitutional amendment. Voters in Tennessee voted strongly in favor of a similar constitutional amendment in 2014, passing it with more than 66 percent of the vote.

Fortunato added, “An income tax threatens our economy, especially in King County. Many CEOs, who employ a lot of people, bring jobs to our state because we are one of the few states left without an income tax. Implement one now and watch how long it takes for these companies to find a new home.”

For those who favor an income tax, Fortunato has a suggestion. 

“There is nothing stopping proponents of an income tax from voluntarily sending their money to the state. Individuals can come up with their own tax rates and deductions. They can then compute how much money they owe and send the money into the state treasurer’s office,” he said. “I suggest that they put a note in the memo field as to where the money should go. That way it is a win-win. Those of us that don’t want an income tax will be protected and those that do can pay more.”