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Sen. O’Ban to pre-file bill banning local income taxes

In light of the Washington State Court of Appeals’ ruling on Seattle’s proposed graduated income tax, Sen. Steve O’Ban announced his intent to pre-file a bill for the 2020 legislative session “solidifying the ban on local income taxes.”

On Monday the Court ruled that Seattle’s graduated income tax is unconstitutional. But in a surprising move, the Court also ruled that the 1984 law banning flat local income taxes is unconstitutional because it violates the single subject rule.  

The ruling states:

“Consequently, RCW 36.65.030 is unconstitutional and no statutory prohibition limits Seattle’s authority to levy a property tax on income.”

The ruling opens the door for the case to go to the state Supreme Court, where there is the opportunity to get rid of the constitutional ban on graduated income taxes.

In a press release announcing his intent to pre-file the bill, O’Ban also highlighted a letter he sent to Attorney General Bob Ferguson, calling on him to intervene on the state’s behalf to “defend the constitutionality of the state’s local income tax ban.”

“Every client is entitled to a defense. The state is your client. And a state law in place for over 35 years has just been found invalid on grounds rarely invoked by the court system. We expect you to represent the state’s interest by defending the constitutionality of the law,” the letter reads.

O’Ban also sent a letter to the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee asking that the committee authorize funds to file an amicus brief supporting the ban if the case is taken up by the state Supreme Court.

“Washingtonians have voted down an income tax over and over, but the majority party keeps pushing for one under the guise that it will target the rich. But it would eventually apply to everyone,” said O’Ban in a press release. “And it wouldn’t be instead of other taxes. It would be on top of other taxes. The majority party’s thirst for more money means they will litigate and legislate at every possible opportunity to get an income tax. The will of the people must be upheld.”

This past legislative session, a group of Republican Representatives introduced a bill to clarify the legislature’s refusal to give cities and counties the power to impose a personal income tax. The bill did not receive a hearing.