Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, May 18, 2009

It's time to start the discussion on state tax reform

Years of Republican anti-tax tirades have made their mark on Washingtonians. We have stubbornly resisted reforming our most-regressive-in-the-nation tax system, and we have even passed damaging Tim Eyman initiatives limiting our state’s ability to improve its schools and react to crises like the global economic meltdown.

Until now.

Time and again, as I attend meetings across King County, the topic of tax reform arises. And each time it is declared imperative and urgent.

In a vote by almost 6,000 people from around the state for the best question of those submitted by citizens to Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, one of the most popular questions addressed the state income tax. The discussion is starting.

Democratic legislators say that polls don’t show support for a state income tax, that supporting tax reform is too politically risky for them. What is risky to them and to us is the prospect of facing another enormous budget deficit in 2011-2012, if our economy hasn’t improved by then, without the benefit of a three billion dollar federal stimulus package. Without Obama's aid this year, our new budget would be an even bigger disaster.

When people spend less, our state revenue is less. That means less money for schools, the justice system, health services and environmental protection. That’s what depending on sales tax does to our state. Sales tax is not a stable form of income.

Democratic legislators say that any change will have to come from the grassroots, meaning that citizens will have to push for reform themselves. NPI will be involved in the effort and we hope that you will too.

Some legislators aren’t waiting to see which way the wind is blowing and are standing up for what’s best for Washington. Senators from both sides of the state, Lisa Brown (D-Spokane) and Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle), and Representative Maralyn Chase (D-Shoreline) advocated for a state income tax during the recent legislative session.

It’s not enough to say that citizens must do it themselves. Tax reform is a huge issue and leadership from Olympia would give it both credibility and visibility. It's going to take support from every quarter in order to make it happen.


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