This Washington

Senate to Propose High-Earners' Income Tax

By Josh Feit March 4, 2010

The state Senate is hearing a proposal this afternoon to put a high-earners' income tax on the statewide ballot. The proposal is contingent on the Senate's 0.3 percent sales tax increase passing as well.

The high-earners' income tax referendum would impose a 4.5 percent tax on income above $200,000 for a single individual and $400,000 for a married couple. It would also give voters the option of repealing the 0.3 percent sales tax increase and also knocking the current 6.5 percent sales tax down 0.2 percent.

The idea—being proposed by Senate Majority Leader Sen. Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane), who spoke eloquently about a "millionaires' tax" during last year's budget crisis—is being tacked on to Sen. Rosa Franklin's bill for a general income tax increase. Franklin's bill—she proposes it every year—is going nowhere in its own right because it would involve a massive restructuring of the tax system and raise thorny state constitutional questions.

Asked if the current sales tax proposal was—like the governor's "all cuts" budget proposal in December in advance of her tax proposal—just a scare tactic to get voters on board with an income tax, the Senate Democrats' spokesman Jeff Reading said, "it's not a threat. It's not a junk proposal. It's not to manipulate people. Whereas the governor said from the start she wasn't willing to live with an all-cuts budget, this is different. People are ready to live with the sales tax proposal [to meet the budget shortfall.]"

However, Reading added: "it is a recognition that a sales tax is unfair to working families and [the high-earner' tax] gives them a [chance to] say that maybe wealthier people should pay their fair share."

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