Paradigm Shift Needed in WA State Tax Structure by Jim Flynn

Republicans and Democrats agree on one thing, we need a paradigm shift in our state tax structure to avoid the revenue shortfall and budget cuts to education and the social safety net funding disaster we experienced this year.  Still, the electorate is in the dark about sources of revenue for Washington.

Washington State legislators unanimously feel that Washington has the most regressive tax system of all the States in the union.  When you ask them “How can we correct the problem?” they respond, “We need a balanced tax system.”

So, you say, “How do we establish a balanced tax system?” They respond, “States that have a successful tax structure balance it through income tax, sales tax, and property tax.”

“Fantastic,” you say, “the only thing that is missing is an income tax. How can we establish an income tax for Washington state residents?” They respond, “The only way we could establish an income tax is through a citizen’s initiative.”

Leaving it up to the citizens hasn’t worked in the past. Citizen initiatives for state income tax are looked on with distrust and disdain.

Washington state voters would approve a state income tax initiative under certain conditions.  First and foremost,  they must have a clear understanding of the total amount they will be taxed.  They must have the promise of a drastically reduced sales tax written into the initiative. Also written into it must be the assurance that the income tax will be stable, equitable and based on a tiered system.

Before an initiative is proposed a great amount of groundwork must be done.  Initiatives and Resolutions that surface shortly before an election pass or fail on an emotional level rather than factual.   With that in mind, the entire state legislature should begin disseminating information to their constituents emphasizing a State Income Tax initiative.  Educate the voters on the benefits of a balanced, layered, system.  Instruct the electorate on the history of our sales tax system.  Explain to everyone in their sphere of influence why the proposed system, once approved will work facile and seamlessly.

With intense education, the population will be ready to accept the initiative on a factual basis.  It will take at least two years but it must be done.  We are all in this together, respected politicians, esteemed business community and straight shooting electorate.


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  1. You know, I honestly feel that an income tax won’t pass in this state unless it replaces the other taxes, like sales tax. I’m for tax reform, making it less-regressive in this state, but I know plenty of people are scared that if we get an income tax, it’s just going to make our tax rates go up, rather than reforming our tax system.

    1. Hi Robert, you are exactly right. I think if people were assured that the sales tax would revert back to 4% with the assurance of stability they would consider an income tax. According to State Treasure Jim McIntire, who supports an income tax, we were a commodity based economy at the turn of the 20th Century and our tax system was based on that. Things have changed and that is no longer the case. Our century old system no longer works and those who can least afford it spend the greatest percentage of their disposable income on taxable commodities. By definition that makes it a regressive tax.

  2. According to research done by our local Economic Opportunity Institute, if sales taxes were dropped to 2-3%, property taxes going to the state government cut, and a progressive income tax enacted, 4 out of 5 voters would pay less.

    This is a hard sell, because even though sales taxes hit lower income people hard, they like them because they don’t notice them. Hair conditioner on sale for $1.29 rings up as $1.41 at the cash register. Big whoop. Almost no one bothers to save all their receipts and add up total sales taxes for the year.

    1. Thanks Martha, you always have the ingredients to put things in proper perspective.

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