The referendum also would propose reducing the state portion of the sales tax by 1 cent per dollar from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent.
The income tax would apply only to the highest earners in the state.
Still, she said that what she calls "an excise tax on high incomes" would raise more revenue than the state would lose by the reduction in the sales tax.
Money from the proposed tax would be dedicated entirely to education by going into the legacy trust account.
McAuliffe says that the money would pay for programs that serve 38,000 low-income children in pre-school and early-childhood education, reduce class sizes in kindergarten through high school and support for college financial-aid programs.
She noted that Washington is one of only four states that doesn't have some kind of income tax. She said that she thinks that a statewide vote on the tax would have a better chance than past measures because voters understand the need.
McAuliffe said that the proposal is her response to the budget proposed for the next two years by state Senate Republicans. The Senate passed the budget Friday.
A coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats holds a one-vote majority in the Senate. Some other Democrats joined members of the majority coalition to give the Republican budget a comfortable majority.
The Senate budget increases state support for basic education by cutting social services. McAuliffe said that the excise tax would provide for education and leave money from traditional sources to pay for the social services that would be cut in the Senate budget.
To go to a November vote, the proposal would have to get a majority vote in both the state Senate and the House of Representatives.
In case it doesn't, McAuliffe said that several groups have expressed an interest in writing an initiative that would do the same thing,
The plan would tax individual income above certain amounts earned from Washington sources at 4.5 percent. The tax would be imposed on individuals, but not on estates or trusts. The tax would not apply to corporations. However, partners of partnerships and shareholders are subject to tax in their separate or individual capacities.
The tax would be imposed on an individual's income that is over $200,000. For a head of a household, income over $300,000 is taxed. For a married couple, the tax applies to income over $400,000.
McAuliffe issued this statement:
Last week Gov. Jay Inslee's budget proposal focused on closing tax loopholes and dedicating new revenue to education, lower class sizes, intensive remediation for struggling students and professional growth opportunities for teachers and principals. I applaud Governor Inslee's budget proposal. Putting the education of our kids first is the right priority.
I believe we need a substantial overhaul of our tax system in order to fund education including early learning for our most at risk children, lower classes in K-12 and access to college for our students through financial aid.
Therefore, I am introducing a revenue referendum, and ask the Legislature to send this vote to the people.
I believe the public deserves the chance to decide for themselves if they want to buy back detrimental cuts to the most vulnerable and fund education for our students to ensure all children have the support they need to be able to live their dreams.
She said that she expects the House to pass a budget that will be similar to the governor's proposal.
McAuliffe, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education, represents the 1st Legislative District, including most of Mountlake Terrace, all of Brier and Bothell, north Kirkland, unincorporated areas of King County between Bothell and Kirkland, and unincorporated areas of Snohomish County north and east of Bothell.
Evan Smith can be reached at email@example.com.
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