Homelessness, affordable housing, addiction, education — You can stop pretty near any barstool discussion of progressive policy in “liberal Seattle” cold in its tracks with this gem: “Too bad Washington doesn’t have an income tax!”
Wednesday, a coalition of advocacy groups visited City Hall to make the case that Seattle should go it alone with an income tax on high earners. Led by the Transit Riders Union, the Trump Proof Seattle coalition says it wants to create a new income tax in Seattle that would institute “a 2.5% tax on unearned income, comprising capital gains, interest and dividends” and households “with total (adjusted gross) income over $250,000.” Advocates say they could move forward by collecting signatures to put the initiative on the ballot this fall or by structuring the tax so it could be carried forward by the Seattle City Council and adopted directly into city law.
District 3 representative Kshama Sawant is a fan of moving on the new tax directly.
“We could do this as an initiative but it’s important to challenge elected officials to take a stance on this,” Sawant said at informational session on the coalition’s effort Wednesday in City Council chambers. “A lot of politicians in the Seattle area have been talking about how they’re against Trump, that this is a sanctuary city, but it’s hollow unless they actually do something to make this city affordable and livable.”
The coalition says estimates show the tax would affect between 5% and 10% of Seattle households and generate around $100 million per year. They also hope the tax would “pave the way for action in other cities and statewide.”
Seattle voters, meanwhile, could be a barrier. In 2016, Olympia rejected a proposed 1.5% tax on income for households making more than $200,000. Seattle did stand mostly alone in 2010, however, when the state overwhelmingly rejected a 5% tax on individuals making more than $200,000.
One way to sweeten the offer and win more widespread support could be to pair the income tax proposal with cuts to other Seattle taxes. Makini Howell, owner of Capitol Hill’s Plum family of eateries, spoke Wednesday and said taxes should be cut on the city’s small businesses and to help “put more money in the pockets” of Seattle’s low-income families.
No matter the path to implementation, if the tax were to be approved, advocates acknowledge the plan would face immediate legal challenges.
You can learn more at trumpproofseattle.org.