Senate’s opposition Democrats block effort to seek constitutional prohibition of state, local income tax

Tuesday, the state Senate’s Democrat minority prevented the passage of a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban a tax on individual incomes.

Senate Joint Resolution 8204 required a two-thirds majority to pass, or 33 votes of the 49-member Senate. All 25 members of the Senate majority supported the measure, joined by two members of the Senate’s Democrat minority.

Had the measure been approved, the state House of Representatives would also need to approve the measure by a two-thirds vote, and submit the measure to the voters in November for their approval.

“The people of our state have said time and again that they do not want an income tax, but the activist state Supreme Court has consistently denied the will of the voters to stop the state from increasing taxes,” said Bailey, R-Oak Harbor. “This resolution is necessary to protect taxpayers from an income tax that they do not want.”

SJR 8204 was introduced because of concerns surrounding the growing conversation around income-tax proposals in local jurisdictions as a method to increase tax revenues. The amendment would have preempted state, city and county governments from taxing individual incomes.

In the 1930s the Washington Supreme Court ruled that a graduated income tax was unconstitutional. Since that ruling, Washington voters have rejected an income tax nine times, most recently in 2010. However, the court did not prohibit a uniform income tax. Recently, municipal income taxes have been proposed in Olympia, where voters rejected the proposal in 2016, and in Seattle.

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. The most recent vote on a state income tax in 2010 was defeated in the 10th Legislative District by over 67 percent.

Bailey added, “An income tax is not about the real needs of our state. In the same time that the state budget has nearly doubled, the population has increased by 20 percent. Clearly there is a disconnect between the services the state provides and the amount of money the government is taking from its citizens to deliver them. If we continue down that path, there will never be enough money, or sources from taxpayers to run our state government. We need to send a clear message that we stand with voters in their desire to prevent Olympia from taking more of their hard-earned money.”