Personal finance social network WalletHub ranks Washington the 6th best state in which to be a taxpayer.
Apropos to yesterday’s post on the proper context in which to put proposed local tax hikes, I’d just like to mention for the umpteenth time in my decade of political blogging that, on average, Washington is not a high-tax state.
We’re just not. There’s no debating it. Even here in tax-happy Seattle.
Is our sales tax high? Absolutely. But then, we don’t have an income tax. Are our gasoline, alcohol, and tobacco taxes some of the highest in the nation? No question. But then, we don’t have an income tax. Are our property taxes abnormally high compared to other states? Um, no. Measured by either percentage of home value or percentage of household income, our property taxes are actually quite middling. And, we don’t have an income tax!
Everybody uses a different methodology, but no matter how you look at it, Washington’s state and local taxes are consistently found to be below the national average. The Washington State Department of Revenue ranked our state and local taxes as a percentage of personal income 35th nationally in 2011, the last year for which full US Census data is available. Personal finance social network WalletHub recently released a report that finds Washington to be the 6th best state in which to be a taxpayer. Even the conservative Tax Foundation—the “think” tank Tim Eyman used to love to cite—ranks Washington 6th in favorable business tax climate and only 27th in state and local tax “burden”:
Washington’s 2010 tax burden of 9.29% ranks 23rd lowest out of 50 states, and is below the national average of 9.9%.
Of course, Washington shamefully tops the nation in regressivity, thanks to our lack of an income tax and our subsequent over-reliance on high sales and excise taxes. If you earn over a million dollars a year you pay less than 2.8 percent in state and local taxes, but if you earn less than $20,000 a year you pay an exorbitant 16.9 percent. That is outrageously indefensible. But our mildly regressive property taxes play only a minor role in tilting our tax structure onto the shoulders of the poor, while funding much of the public services on which they rely.
Look, nobody likes to pay taxes. Not even me. But when I hear parks district and Metro funding opponents cry out that our state and local taxes are already too damn high, I tell them to go try out another state! We’ve been living on the cheap the past decade and a half, deferring maintenance on the infrastructure we have and refusing to invest in the infrastructure we need. Our tax “burden” is already on par with states like Mississippi—and if we don’t start spending a little more on roads and transit and parks and schools, our infrastructure and our economy will soon be on par with Mississippi as well.