State Senate Dems have been blogging the current session, and Majority Leader Lisa Brown has a new post up talking about, yes, taxes.
There’s been a lot of talk in Olympia recently about a sales tax increase, but we need a revenue proposal that makes things better and fairer for regular families in our state — not worse.
We need to keep in mind that, in Washington, individuals in the lowest 20 percent of the tax bracket pay 17 percent of their annual income in state taxes, and individuals in the top 20 percent of the tax bracket pay less than 3 percent. For a sales tax to be fair, any increase would have to include a full working families tax credit to offset the unfair impact on those who are hardest hit by our tax structure.
I also worry that a sales tax increase would make us even more dependent on an extremely volatile revenue stream. Consider recent evidence: state revenue, more than half of which comes from the sales tax, has taken a nosedive in the current recession. The total downward adjustment of state revenues since the last legislative session is $4.9 billion – $2.3 billion in the past two months alone.
The New York Legislature is considering what I think is a fair and stable way of addressing their revenue challenges.
Should we do something similar in Washington?
Yes, yes, we should do something similar here in Washington, and the first step toward achieving this something similar is to actually mention it by name: a high-earners income tax.
It is encouraging to see Sen. Brown publicly consider such a proposal, but also quite telling that she obviously felt the need to obliquely link to the NY State variant, rather than speaking its details openly, without hesitation. The income tax—any income tax—has long been considered the third rail of WA politics, but we’re not talking about forcing anything down taxpayers’ throats here: we’re talking about talking about holding a public debate over whether to put a high-earners income tax on the ballot where voters could approve or reject it for themselves. Why should that be so hard?
Still, Sen. Brown appears to be taking the initiative where other Democratic leaders have failed to tread, and she deserves kudos for that. What she needs now is unqualified public support from her caucus members who privately acknowledge that a high-earners income tax should be a responsible part of any proposal to close our current budget gap… politics permitting. It is high time to speak truth from power.