It's about time to talk about a state income tax

There is someone with courage down in Olympia. Her name is Senator Rosa Franklin from Tacoma. She has sponsored two bills, SB 5104 and SB 8205, which deal with getting an income tax in Washington State.

Not surprisingly, she has no co-signers. Income tax is the third rail in politics in this state. Anyone who shows any public inclination to support it ends up no longer in Olympia. And, anyone in the public attempting to have a cogent, coherent and civil discussion on this topic with a fellow citizen is out of luck. That is too bad.

Study after study in this state has shown the benefits of going this route rather than continuing to rely on the widely swinging revenues of property and sales taxes. Using an income tax provides a more stable source of funding that evens out the extreme highs and lows that come with the other two taxes. One need only see what has happened over the last few years to see that in action.

Having a more predictable source of funding means programs can operate at a consistent level. There is no constant repetition of hiring and firing depending upon how the sales tax is doing. This enables government to keep programs and services on a more even keel. This also lets government do better long-range planning.

But, that all gets pushed aside in everyone’s rush to kill the idea aborning. All the studies get pushed off: they have no value, they are biased, they only represent what the powers that be want to hear. No attention is paid to the merits. If there was, that would mean there was some validity to the income tax position and certainly that can’t be possible.

Another argument is that the taxes in Washington are already too high and this will just add to the burden. Too bad no attention was paid to some of the studies. One recommended that a cap be put on the percentage that could be raised by the three taxes but with flexibility to change the percentages in that cap. For example, with a 10 percent cap, the income tax could be 5 percent, the sales tax could be 3 percent and property tax 2 percent. Those percentages could be changed to a 3 percent income tax, a 6 percent sales tax and 1 percent property tax. And, that could all be written so that it would be very hard to change the cap.

Also, the income tax would not be just a personal income tax but a corporate one, replacing the regressive and loathed business and occupation tax. If there is any tax that is driving business out or keeping it away from Washington, it is the B&O tax, not the sales or property tax. One need look no further than Boeing to see that. Boeing has parts of its company in states that have income, sales and property taxes, but not B&O taxes. It doesn’t take much to see that taxing a business on all revenue with no regard to how much was expended to keep the business going is not the best way to let new businesses grow, let alone expand existing companies.

Times are not just tough, they’re horrific. If there were any time to truly consider changing the way we do business, it is now. The system as it stands is broken. It is pointless to be making all the proposed deep cuts that will decimate programs and services only to reinstate them in a few years when things are better. These high peaks and low valleys do no one any good.

Three cheers to Senator Franklin for stepping up. It is a subject that needs to be discussed, examined and given a chance to be heard. The knee-jerk “no” reaction is a non-starter. For once, let this topic be addressed in a rational manner.

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