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‘Those that have more can – and must – do more’ — Mayor says Seattle has ‘authority’ to implement income tax

Mayor Jenny Durkan is speaking out against last week’s decision by the Washington’s Supreme Court to let stand a lower court ruling blocking Seattle from reinstating a city income tax on wealthy households.

“Washington State has one of the most regressive tax systems in the country, and our lowest earning residents consistently pay the highest share of their income in taxes,” Durkan said in a statement on the ruling. “This is unfair, unjust and not sustainable. Those that have more can – and must – do more. This has never been more true than now.”

The ruling, for now, means the state and cities like Seattle cannot enact income taxes with different rates based on wealth but the Supreme Court has let stand a lower court decision last year to void a state law that banned taxes on net income.

Durkan said she believes the city has the authority to implement an income tax and will continue to “fight statewide for more progressive taxes.”

Seattle’s latest stymied tax effort started in 2017 with a “Trump-Proof Seattle” coalition making a push for a new city income tax.

Seattle’s income tax placed a 2.25% rate on income over $250,000 a year for individuals, or $500,000 for married couples filing jointly. It was expected to generate $140 million a year.

The setback for the city comes as a new push is underway for a payroll tax on Seattle’s largest employers like Amazon, Microsoft, and Expedia.

In her statement, Durkan said the COVID-19 pandemic shows that “those same residents that earn or have the least are the first to feel economic stings of job loss and instability.”

“As we emerge from this emergency all of us need to rebuild a city that is more just and equitable. We will come back. We will restore the vitality of our city,” Durkan said. “But let’s build that city on a foundation that continues our amazing innovation, shares prosperity, and allows for economic opportunity.”


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Jim98122x
Jim98122x
1 year ago

And from the mayors of Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah, Kirkland…..crickets. Same old bullshit.

PD
PD
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim98122x

While I personally don’t feel a city-level income tax is the ideal way of making Washington taxation more progressive, I sympathize.

But….

What do you expect?

There are two rules in American politics:

#1: Conservatives can do whatever they want, with zero consequences, because their voters are a bunch of propagandized morons that will believe anything and continue to vote for the GOP.

#2: Democrats are, in fact, neither liberals nor progressives for the most part. They are moderate conservatives. They **campaign** as liberals/progressives to be sure, but, once elected, they simply ignore anything they said during campaign season and govern as moderate conservatives (e.g., Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, etc., this applies locally as well).

What this means is that we, essentially, have a one party state.

So…what do you do? I am all for progress…but locally, it seems, “progress” comes in the form of the risible Sawant, and the only thing I was for her is to have her wings clipped and her political career destroyed.

TurnCalAndersonIntoADogPark
TurnCalAndersonIntoADogPark
1 year ago
Reply to  PD

That’s why we need a real third party that orients to progressives and working people.

Like you pointed out, republicans and democrats are both aligned–at least when it comes to protecting the interests of the wealthy–and that’s why we have a mind-boggling, regressive sales tax to fund city services.

Sawant, though you may not like her, is clearly try to work around these barriers by pushing for a payroll tax (probably the best form of tax that can still survive the supreme court) with a decidedly independent, grassroots approach. If you want her ‘wings clipped,’ who else will actually use their platform to push for an end to regressive taxation? Like you, I don’t see progress coming from anywhere else.

MB
MB
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim98122x

Even with this ruling only certain cities have the capability to impose an income tax. This came up recently in Kirkland and here was the response from a member of the council. The way I read this response King County is not able to impose an income tax only Seattle, Everett and Tacoma has that capability locally unless the state legislature were to act.

The state has always been able to impose a flat 1% income tax on everyone without a public vote. Counties and “code cities” can only impose taxes that are explicitly allowed by state law, and state law does not explicitly allow local income taxes today. However, charter cities (Aberdeen, Bellingham, Bremerton, Everett, Richland, Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, Yakima) have a lot more flexibility, including the ability to kind of just make up new types of taxes so long as that type of tax isn’t explicitly prohibited by state law. Up until the Appeals Court decision in this case, state law explicitly prohibited cities and counties from imposing local taxes on net incomes, but the Appeals Court said that prohibition was unconstitutional because the bill that enacted it violated the multiple subject rule so Kirkland CANNOT impose an income tax unless the state legislature explicitly allows it, and that has not been done, and that wasn’t affected by this decision. One of those 10 first-class charter cities could do it now, but it would have to be a flat tax of no more than 1% unless it was put to a public vote to make it a higher rate (but even with a public vote it would still have to be flat, not graduated).

Everyone with half a brain
Everyone with half a brain
1 year ago

Prove that you can manage the current record level of tax funds efficiently then ask for more taxes. It’s never enough for the local and state governments, like a hungry disgusting pig that will eat as much as you give it and still sit in the same old mud pit.

How is it, that over the course of the past decade, with a boom in Seattle like almost never seen before we have:

– The most homeless per capita of anywhere in the Nation
– Crumbling infrastructure e.g. Magnolia and West Seattle bridge are unsafe to use
– Lawlessness and open air drug markets in major areas of town e.g. 3rd Ave

Complete mismanagement by the social justice warriors on the city council that would rather virtue signal than make this City better.

PD
PD
1 year ago

Lol.

Here’s a hint if you’re coming from the Conservative Hive Mind and trying to communicate with normal Homo sapiens:

Use of terms like “social justice warriors” marks you as suffering from Fox News Brain Rot (FNBR). It also means that most normal Homo sapiens immediately discount what you are saying…with good reason.

Also, to your bullet points (even though they are em-dashes):

1.) All major cities have homeless issues, it’s not borne from the liberal character of Seattle. Your implied contention that it is is as moronic as it is wrong.

2.) The Magnolia bridge serves a few wealthy people…if they want a new one, they can pay for it themselves. The W. Seattle bridge is suffering from a problem that cropped up quite quickly and was caught via regular inspections and maintenance…problems happen (sometimes they are bad ones, like what the W. Seattle bridge has at the moment!), but to imply infrastructure problems are directly a result of “social justice warriors” running government, well, again that is misguided and a clear sign of FNBR.

3.) As to the last em-dash. Lawlessness? Really? 3rd Ave downtown has always been a bad area…but downtown Seattle has never been some “Escape from New York” style war zone. Again, please get your FNBR treated, it’s warping your cognition.

To sum up my too-long post for the middle of a workday (yay for wfh!):

“Um, okay Boomer. Sit down, settle down, and head over to the nearest clinic to deal with that brain rot of yours.”

Who is this poster anyway? Is that you Dori Monson, with your awful views and always-wrong takes on literally everything?

RWK
RWK
1 year ago
Reply to  PD

I’ll take on just one claim of your ageist rant:

” The Magnolia bridge serves a few wealthy people…if they want a new one, they can pay for it themselves”

That is a truly ludicrous statement. Magnolia is a large neighborhood with a wide variety of income levels. Sure, there are rich people there, but many middle-class people too. Would you require them to pay for a new bridge?

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
1 year ago
Reply to  PD

The problem with the Magnolia Bridge replacement is not “screw the rich people”, but rather that Magnolia residents want it replaced in kind.

The current bridge is very long and would be prohibitory expensive (estimates up to $500 million) and would serve a portion Magnolia’s 20,000 residents and a handful of workers. Most visitors to Magnolia likely use the Dravis or Emerson Bridges.

The City has proposed various alternates that would be a fraction of the cost of an in kind replacement, mostly lost bridge(s) and street re-channelization. A lot of Magnolia residents are opposed to these alternates and keep demanding an in kind replacement and progress towards a replacement grinds to a halt. So I agree with PD that if Magnolia wants something above and beyond a reasonable alternative replacement, they can pay for it themselves.

Magnolia is trending towards a similar situation to West Seattle, though one that could be seen coming for a long time.

Anyone with half a brain
Anyone with half a brain
1 year ago
Reply to  PD

I’m sure you really felt like you did a mic drop moment there. Literally every point you “refuted” was just your opinion…

1. There is no refutation to my point that we have the highest homeless population per capita. Just an ad hominem.

2. Thanks for reminding me that marxists like you don’t like the poor, they just hate the rich. Also, you’re completely wrong about the WSB. Inspections from 2013 showed damage. Nice try though.

3. So what would you call an open air drug market, aggressive begging, dangerous atmospheres, massive amount of shoplifting, and bums shooting up and smoking meth out in the open with zero repercussions?

It’s really sad you think you’re smarter than everyone when you’re a poor, sad, hateful person who likes to hop on whatever train will give you the most street cred in your neo-liberal circles. I literally don’t watch the news, I live it and form my own opinions you pathetic ideologue. I know you are unable to have your own opinions and would rather get told you’re a good boy. I didn’t vote for him in either election, but people like you are why Trump got elected and will a second time.

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
1 year ago
Reply to  PD

…but people like you are why Trump got elected and will a second time.

No, people stupidly voting for a well known con-man and liar to “stick it to those liberals” is the reason why Trump got elected. Nobody but Trump voters are responsible for Trump’s election no matter how much they try to justify their moronic actions.

QED.

PD
PD
1 year ago

Oh and one more thing as I continue to avoid work:

One of the most infuriating thingS about Seattle Boomers is the property tax issue.

Invariably, these Boomers bought their home for approximately $5.37 back in the time when home prices were affordable.

Invariably, these Boomers will complain endlessly about the property taxes they have to pay on this investment that went from the $5.37 they paid for it in the Before Time to the million-dollar property it is in 2020.

Invariably, these Boomers have benefitted enormously–as one would–from the MASSIVE APPRECIATION IN THEIR ASSET PURCHASE over a relatively-short period of time.

Invariably, as Boomers are wont to do, they ALWAYS WANT TO HAVE IT BOTH WAYS. Which is to say, they want to benefit from their massively-appreciated real estate asst, without actually having to pay the taxes associated from said asset.

Which is, of course, the essence of being a Boomer: the idea of “I don’t just want things both ways, I want them EVERY WAY AND ANY WAY the suits me, period.”

Truly our worst generation ever.

The idea of “Oh, boo hoo, we Millennials are so lazy and awful and should feel so bad for you Boomers and the property tax ‘burden’ you have to shoulder…we’re so sad for you and your MASSIVELY APPRECIATED ASSET THAT YOU BOUGHT FOR ESSENTIALLY NOTHING THAT WE COULD NEVER HOPE TO AFFORD!”

I feel zero sympathy for Boomers and their massive asset holdings and the property taxes associated with them. If you can’t or don’t want to should the burden of property taxes the answer is simple: sell.

Oh, but I am SURE that you Boomers will feel oh-so entitled to all that profit that comes with the sale price of your MASSIVELY APPRECIATED REAL ESTATE ASSET, won’t you?

But then, you can complain about the taxes levied on those profits–and demand we Millennials sympathize with your “plight”–too…amiright?

Of course I am, because Boomers are the worst thing that has happened to America, ever.

Patricia Ann Pedersen
Patricia Ann Pedersen
1 year ago
Reply to  PD

I’m a boomer (albeit a poor one) and I agree with everything you are saying. Student Debt has been ruinous and needs to be canceled immediately. I don’t care if you majored in feather dancing or marxism or computer science. The recession (previous) bail out helped the already rich get richer. We need taxes for a humane, even if just barely humane existence

Glenn
Glenn
1 year ago
Reply to  PD

Boy. Talk about instantly discounting what someone is saying. You should consider yourself discounted.

Adam
Adam
1 year ago
Reply to  PD

The fact is this city horribly manages the funds it has. How’s Move Seattle going? $900M+ and maybe they’re going to deliver half of what was promised? If that?

Or the $80 per year car tax for the Seattle TBD that promised far more new bus hours than Metro could actually deliver? I think they ended up blowing the money on free Orca cards for students instead.

How about the hundreds millions of dollars over the past few years dumped into homelessness, that gets funneled directly to the same old service providers that can’t seem to prove they actually get people into permanent housing or otherwise reduce people living on the streets? Or the developer fees the city “forgot” to collect for affordable housing?

In most jobs, if you want new budget for a program you need to pilot it, prove it works, and then you can scale. I refuse to believe all the failings of our city government are simply due to lack of cash.

If they want to rethink the tax base and restructure to be based on income and less on sales and property, that’s one thing. But this is simply a cash grab for even more money on top of what we pay, and I have no faith in the city to deliver.

The income tax thing is an easy statement for Jenny to make, though. She gets to look progressive while knowing that this will never happen, so she doesn’t have to actually deal with the crapstorm it would create.

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
1 year ago
Reply to  PD

Adam, naturally you’ve included sources for all of your wild allegations?

Oh wait…

Speaking Truth
Speaking Truth
1 year ago

Help me here folks. Other than a constitutional change by the state, it seems to me that the Supreme Court is the final word on interpreting existing law in Washington. Am I missing something? I thought the decision in essence says that there can be no graduated tax, while a flat tax of the same percentage for every taxpayer would be acceptable. For the person earning 2000.00 they would be 40.00 at 2% and the person earning 2 million would pay 20,000. But no breaks or lower rates for the lower income, and presumably no threshold for such payment either. Unlike those who might file Federal taxes and not have a tax due because of their income and various credits, each such individual would pay under the constraints in WA. Am I incorrect?

And we know that the likelihood of a constitutional amendment passing to permit an income tax is very low to none as it requires a 2/3 vote of the legislature.

MarciaX
MarciaX
1 year ago
Reply to  Speaking Truth

What’s more likely than a constitutional amendment, and what backers of the 2010 income tax initiative were counting on, is that the current constitutional prohibition (dating from the 1930s) is not sustainable in light of more recent case law that has eroded the principle that a person’s income stream is their “property.” Even the opponents of I-1200 broadly agreed that the constitutionality question was more or less a toss-up, which is why they poured so much money into defeating it.

sna
sna
1 year ago

The city can likely pass an income tax, but it must be flat and is limited to a max of 1%. Such tax would generate 300-400M by my back of the envelope calculation. I would guess they’re looking at this options now given the huge hole the budget likely has due to CV19.

Critics will cry “it’s not progressive!!!l”. But they’re the same critics who say the current taxes are highly regressive so this should at least be an improvement.

Matt
Matt
1 year ago
Reply to  sna

A 1% *income* tax is going to be always more progressive than a sales tax.

MarciaX
MarciaX
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt

It’s not inherently more progressive, but if the new revenue mostly goes to help the economically disadvantaged, it’s a net plus. Washington has the most inequitable tax structure in the nation, but its social programs are relatively generous, which helps compensate somewhat for its regressive taxes.

JerSeattle
JerSeattle
1 year ago

Once they open up income tax it can’t be put back into it’s box! Be careful what you are doing. Write the Mayor!

MarciaX
MarciaX
1 year ago
Reply to  JerSeattle

That’s why I like it, even if it’s a flat one to start with.