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

Editorial cartoons for Monday, May 20

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

Snohomish County Councilmembers Nate Nehring, left, and Jared Mead, speaking, take turns moderating a panel including Tulip Tribes Chairwoman Teri Gobin, Stanwood Mayor Sid Roberts and Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell during the Building Bridges Summit on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, at Western Washington University Everett in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Candidates, voters have campaign promises to make

Two county officials’ efforts to improve political discourse skills are expanding to youths and adults.

Charles Blow: Trump remains at war with the U.S. Constitution

His threats of deportation and violence against peaceful protesters, though vague, can’t be ignored.

Choice in November is between democracy, autocracy

The country belongs to the people and in November they can choose… Continue reading

Opposing Israel’s Netanyahu isn’t antisemitic

I support the demonstrations against Israel’s Benjamin Netayahu. Counter to what the… Continue reading

Trump is being pursued in court because he can win

It is so obvious that President Biden, the Democrats and much of… Continue reading

Editorial cartoons for Sunday, May 19

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

Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks to a reporter as his 2024 gubernatorial campaign launch event gets underway in Seattle, on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. ( Jerry Cornfield/Washington State Standard)
Editorial: Recruiting two Bob Fergusons isn’t election integrity

A GOP activist paid the filing fee for two gubernatorial candidates who share the attorney general’s name.

Foster parent abstract concept vector illustration. Foster care, father in adoption, happy interracial family, having fun, together at home, childless couple, adopted child abstract metaphor.
Editorial: State must return foster youths’ federal benefits

States, including Washington, have used those benefits, rather than hold them until adulthood.

Making adjustments to keep Social Security solvent represents only one of the issues confronting Congress. It could also correct outdated aspects of a program that serves nearly 90 percent of Americans over 65. (Stephen Savage/The New York Times) -- NO SALES; FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY WITH NYT STORY SLUGGED SCI SOCIAL SECURITY BY PAULA SPAN FOR NOV. 26, 2018. ALL OTHER USE PROHIBITED.
Editorial: Social Security’s good news? Bad news delayed a bit

Congress has a little additional time to make sure Social Security is solvent. It shouldn’t waste it.

Eco-nomics: What it takes to take carbon out of energy

The transition to clean energy demands investment in R&D and the grid and streamlining processes.

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.