Let’s talk about an income tax

A state income tax.

Now that he has your attention, state Treasurer James McIntire hopes that everyone in Washington, not just lawmakers, might give the idea some thought over the next year.

Much of the reason that legislators are now struggling to find agreement on how to fully fund education — and why they’ll now need a special session to do it — is easily traced back to the state’s revenue system.

It’s why lawmakers are in contempt of the state Supreme Court for not acting more quickly to fund education. It’s why the state has allowed school districts to turn to property tax levies to make up the difference between what the state provides and what is necessary to pay teachers. It’s why our state’s reliance on sales tax revenue has saddled residents with the most regressive tax system in the nation, where lower-income families pay a greater share of their income as taxes than more affluent families. It’s why the business and occupation tax has made Washington 33rd in the nation on the list for business competitiveness. It’s why our tax base is shrinking and will continue to wither relative to the state’s economy.

The math, McIntire said earlier in the week, does not add up.

“It’s mathematically impossible for us to sustain an adequate investment in education on a shrinking tax base,” he said Monday in Olympia.

Beyond the next two to six years that the Legislature is working to address this session, McIntire says the state will need an additional $4 billion for education by the 2019-21 biennium. Relying on the current tax system, that would require a 1 percentage point increase in the state sales tax to 7.5 percent; a 15 percent increase in the B&O tax; and an increase in the state’s share of property tax of $1 per $1,000 of assessed value to a rate of $2.90.

The nation’s most-regressive tax system would become more so, and the state’s competitiveness ranking would drop even further to 41st in the nation.

McIntire, instead, wants to make a “grand bargain.” In exchange for a constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds majority of the Legislature and a majority vote of the public to change state taxes, McIntire proposes a flat 5 percent state income tax with deductions that for a family of four would amount to $50,000. The revenue generated by the income tax would: allow for the elimination of the state’s portion of the property tax and lower limits for excess local school levies; allow the B&O tax to be lowered 1 percent for service businesses and to 0.29 percent for all other business, the same rate Boeing enjoys; and allow for the reduction of the state sales tax by 1 percentage point to 5.5 percent.

The result, says McIntire, is more money for education, a fairer tax system for residents and a more competitive business climate, raising its ranking to 15th in the nation.

McIntire, who wants to take his proposal on the road over the next year prior to a vote in 2016, says the plan isn’t perfect and adjustments can be made, but it’s a place to start a conversation.

In the interests of our students, our economy and income equality, it’s a conversation we can’t afford to delay any further.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

June 22, 2024: The Warning Label
Editorial cartoons for Monday, June 24

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

FILE - Lion Air's Boeing 737 Max 8 sits on the tarmac at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia, April 13, 2019. Indonesia said Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, it is lifting its ban on Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft, three years after one crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 189 people on board. (AP Photo Nicole Evatt, File)
Editorial: Boeing quality proving difficult to recapture

The company seeks to assure its rededication to quality, but recent news is getting in the way.

Comment: Schools banning cellphones; wha’ts not to like?

Parents can still make the call on whether kids have cellphones. Schools can decide their use in school.

Saunders: Biden should stop with Trump bleach-injection fable

The story requires some context, but Trump did not call for people to inject bleach to cure covid.

Comment: Court’s bump stock ruling reflects its MAGA direction

Continuing its conservative activism, the majority turned to the dictionary to legalize machine guns.

Loss of Herald staff a loss for journalism, democracy

Friday, the League of Women Voters of Snohomish County issued the following… Continue reading

Readers will notice the loss of Herald staff in newspaper

My deepest sympathies for The Herald’s newsroom staff regarding the pending layoffs.… Continue reading

toon
Editorial cartoons for Sunday, June 23

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

President Joe Biden hugs Javier Quiroz Castro, who benefitted from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, during an anniversary event for DACA in the East Room at the White House on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. President Biden on Tuesday announced sweeping new protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have been living in the United States illegally for years but are married to American citizens. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)
Comment: Biden looks to protect immigrant spouses of citizens

An executive order providing legal status would help families and the communities in which they live.

Herald layoffs mark sad day for local journalism

I did not subscribe to The Herald to support a company from… Continue reading

Thanks for doing the math to determine Herald Athletic Cup

I read with pleasure the article about high school sports and the… Continue reading

How can Herald continue with much smaller staff?

I am stunned by the news in Thursday’s Herald regarding the significant… Continue reading

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.