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The Battle for Good Government: Why I canceled my Seattle Times subscription

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Headlined to H3 2/6/10

But Washington State voters have repeatedly rejected an income tax, and the legislature, despite a large Democratic majority and a Democratic governor, has been reluctant to antagonize voters by raising revenue. Even people who stand to benefit from progressive income tax buy into conservative anti-tax propaganda.

From "Fairer Taxes for Washington"

Since the 1930s, efforts to reform Washington's tax structure to include an income tax have had to contend with a State Supreme Court ruling designating income as property. Washington's constitution requires that property taxes be uniform on a particular class of property, regular levy rates not exceed 1%, and exemptions for personal property not exceed $15,000 per head of household. A state income tax that does not meet these restrictions requires either a constitutional amendment or a
reversal of the court decision.

Several proposals to amend the constitution and adopt a general personal income tax have been approved by the necessary two-thirds majorities of both chambers of the legislature, only to be defeated by votes of the people. [Don: so our first task is to "educate" the public about why a progressive income tax would be to their benefit, both by making making taxes fairer and by explaining how government serves them.] The most recent attempt was in 1973. Some legal scholars believe that if an income tax measure passed today without a constitutional amendment and was challenged in court, there is a good chance that the Supreme Court would reverse its earlier ruling and allow the tax to stand. Others point to rulings as recent as 1999 that suggest the Court would hold to
its earlier position.

Even without the constitutional issue, passing an income tax of any kind would likely require a super-majority vote in the state legislature and a ratifying vote of the people. Initiative 601, passed in 1993, requires a two-thirds vote of both chambers in the state legislature to raise taxes and establishes a spending limit for the state. While the initiative has been amended a number of times and the super-majority provision
was temporarily suspended in 2002 and 2005, 601's restrictions remain largely in effect.18 Initiative 960, passed in November 2007, further limits the legislature's ability to raise funds without a vote of the people. The constitutionality of I-960 has not yet been determined [presumably since its super-majority requirement contradicts the "by majority" provision of the state constitution].

Unless progressives can get the word out about who benefits and who loses when government is destroyed, we'll soon be living in a libertarian "utopia": a Somalia-like state of destitution, lawlessness, and anarchy.

Further references

Tax Policy Center's "Individual State Income Tax Rates 2000-2008"

See also Thom Hartmann's well-documented and informative article "The Great Tax Con Job".

More Taxes = More Democracy.

State Senate Bill 6250
establishes a prorgressive state income tax, but because of the state constitution, the matter must be put up for a citizens' vote.

Laws governing the initiative process in Washington State

Bring on the Reagan Counter-Revolution

'High Income' tax more fair

Economic Opportunity Institute

Budget and Policy Organization

Washington State Constitution

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DFA organizer, Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See and for my writing, my (more...)
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Don your actions speak for themselves. You are a ... by Larry Tierney on Saturday, Feb 6, 2010 at 3:59:48 PM
that taxes are not a punishment, or even a "burden... by John Sanchez Jr. on Saturday, Feb 6, 2010 at 5:21:16 PM
I don't subscribe to the Seattle Times and as a fo... by Starla Immak on Saturday, Feb 6, 2010 at 6:37:22 PM just like the Loch Ness monster. People beli... by Darren Wolfe on Sunday, Feb 7, 2010 at 9:18:05 AM
Scandinavian and other European countries have pre... by Don Smith on Sunday, Feb 7, 2010 at 12:09:09 PM
Your European heros "good" govt is what's keeping ... by Darren Wolfe on Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010 at 7:37:48 PM
Just substitute the word government with the word ... by Geek_Gal on Sunday, Feb 7, 2010 at 2:15:56 PM
The corporations & the govt are really one. As... by Darren Wolfe on Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010 at 7:08:19 PM
I've been battling the Times (about all of our "Ti... by Richard Lee on Sunday, Feb 7, 2010 at 6:28:35 PM
".... She also said that lawmakers get more messag... by sesquiculus on Tuesday, Feb 9, 2010 at 11:59:13 AM