Longtime readers, both here on HA and on Slog, know that I’m kinda obsessed with fixing Washington’s absurdly regressive and unsustainable state and local tax structure. Yet more than a decade of kvetching, cursing, and exhaustively explaining why our 1930s-era kludge of a tax system can’t possibly meet the needs of our 21st century economy has sparked little serious debate amongst our state’s politicians and pundits. It’s the blogging equivalent of pissing into the wind.
And so it is at least a little bit encouraging to see state Representative Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) use his position as chair of the House Finance Committee to publicly advance the issue:
All of these dense policy issues fail to capture the human impact of morally bankrupt tax system. By any standard our tax system has become the most unfair to the middle class and low income in the nation. According to the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, the lowest 20% of income earners in Washington–making an average income of $11,500 per year–pay 16.9% of their income in state and local taxes. The national average for this group is 11.1%. The top end–the proverbial one percent earning average income of $1.1 million per year–pay 2.8% of their income in combined taxes in Washington, dramatically less than the 5.6% national average.
We can no longer continue down the same path of tinkering with a broken, unfair and economically inefficient tax system that is divorced from our economy and fails to serve our communities. The 20-year trend shows absolutely no signs of relenting. In a handful of years we are likely to be 40th in the nation in the combined level of state and local taxes based on personal income. And a few years beyond that we can expect to reach 45th. Is that our vision for ourselves? Are we so caustically anti-tax that we would close the doors of our colleges to our own children? Would we close foster homes for our most vulnerable? Would we allow traffic to suffocate our industrial economy and our quality of life?
Again, nothing in Rep. Carlyle’s blog post will come as a surprise to my regular readers—I’ve been writing about this stuff for years. But I hope that the fact that it’s coming from the House Finance chair will lend the issue the gravitas that a dirty, foul-mouthed, blogger like me could never give it.