City leaders are considering an income tax on Seattle's wealthy. Is the proposal for a new 1.5% tax on income in excess of $250,000 a fair idea? Or would it have a chilling effect on the city's booming economy?
At a public hearing on a proposed income tax on high earnings at Seattle City Council chambers Wednesday night, a near-unanimous consensus emerged from the sometimes soaring, sometimes stammering oratory: pass it.
In the long run, the only realistic way we’re going to ensure educational opportunity is really a right for all children in Washington — and not a privilege for the lucky few — is with broad-based progressive tax reform that reduces taxes on low- and middle-income families, and increases them on the rich.
“Seattle can take the lead in dismantling a century-old, discriminatory tax system that weighs heavily on low-income and working-class residents,” John Burbank said before Wednesday’s hearing.
“Households with incomes below $21,000 are paying, on average, 16.8 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while those with incomes above $500,000 pay just 2.4 percent said John Burbank, Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, which co-leads the Trump Proof Seattle Coalition. “It is reasonable for Seattle’s wealthiest residents, who currently pay the lowest tax rates, to pay a little more to make Seattle a better place for everyone – including themselves – to live, work, raise a family and do business.”
The clock is winding down on a second special session in Olympia, and legislators haven’t yet made serious progress on their paramount duty to amply fund K-12 education, despite an order from the state Supreme Court to do so. Meanwhile, newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal isn’t waiting around.
Seattle’s proposed income tax ordinance would mean new revenue for housing, education and other community needs. And it would help fix our upside-down tax code, where low-income workers pay a rate seven times higher than the richest households.
It may seem counter-intuitive that we should focus on trees, when we live in the Northwest, surrounded by mountains and forests. But when you consider urban and suburban growth, trees have been losing out. Our forests are now on their third growth cycle, with smaller and less healthy trees. The giants are gone. So one way to take back a little of our natural heritage is to plant a tree.
“What Seattle is embarking upon, the City Council and the Mayor, is a legal process to clarify the legal ability of cities to establish a progressive income tax,” Burbank said. The brass ring would be to overturn state Supreme Court holdings that equate a tax on income to a tax on property that can be levied only at a flat rate and at no more than one percent.
Proponents say it could raise $125 million a year. But critics, say the move hurts more than helps the city’s cause. We invited guests on both sides of the issue to discuss if this is the path to equality or an unforced error.
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