Seattle Income Tax: Yea or Nay?

July 28, 2017
 

Earlier this month, the Seattle City Council unanimously voted to approve a city income tax, affecting those considered to be “high earners”–meaning individual income over $250,000 a year, or joint income over $500,000 a year.

Only 15 minutes after Mayor Ed Murray signed the ordinance on July 14, Seattle businessman Michael Kunath filed a lawsuit against the city in objection, according to Komo News.

The income tax is controversial not only because of its impact on taxpayers, but because Washington State actually has a law stating that cities may not levy a tax on net income.

Proponents of the tax state that “money from the tax could be used by the city to lower property taxes and other regressive taxes; address homelessness; provide affordable housing, education and transit; replace federal funding lost through budget cuts; create green jobs and meet carbon-reduction goals; and administer the tax,” says the Seattle Times.

Opponents of the tax have a list of objections, but they may not have to use them, since technically the law is on their side. Right now opponents are able to address the legality of establishing this tax through a city ordinance, rather than fighting the tax on its merits or faults.

“‘The problem that we have is that when cities enact ordinances they don’t have the authority to, it sets a precedent and cities will pass more ordinances, and you may like today’s ordinance … but you won’t like tomorrow’s,'” Matthew Davis, attorney for Michael Kunath, told the Seattle Times. “‘So if you wan[t] to fix it, change the constitution, but don’t pass an ordinance.'”

Even if if were to become legal, some residents would be unhappy: “Why is it fair that I work so hard to get to that point, and now I’m forced to pay more?” asked Seattle resident Kate Walter to Carolyn Adolph of NPR.

However, it seems that the voters on the city council see it a different way: “Seattle should serve everyone, not just rich folks,” asserted software developer Carissa Knipe before the council, prior to the vote. In what has become one of the most famous sound bites of the debate, she added:

 “I would love to be taxed.”