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What Seattle income tax supporters don’t tell you

The Seattle City Council wants an income tax and will go to court over it. (Chris Potter, Flickr)

As Seattle officials propose an income tax on the city’s top earners, an analyst says proponents are leaving out some important details.

“If you think an income tax is a good idea, you have the ability to go and make that case, go to the legislature, see if you can get support for a constitutional amendment, and then let’s vote on it for the tenth time, because we’ve already rejected this nine times,” Jason Mercier told the Dori Monson Show.

Mercier is with the Washington Policy Center, a right-wing think tank. He argues that Seattle’s income tax supporters’ plan to take the issue to court is a shifty tactic to get around voters.

“Just going and saying, ‘We are going to get the courts to do what the voters won’t do,’ there’s something very undemocratic about that,” he said.

RELATED: Overwhelming number of people speak in favor of Seattle income tax

The income tax that Councilmember Kshama Sawant introduced this week aims to place a 2 percent tax on persons earning more than $250,000 annually; and on households earning more than $500,000.

Washington state’s laws regarding income tax go back to Supreme Court rulings in the ’30s and ’50s. The rulings state that income is property, and property has to be uniformly taxed for everyone. It generally deals with adjusted income, Mercier points out.

“What they are proposing is total income,” Mercier said. “What that means, when you look at your 1040 IRS form, that is everything reported as income before you take any adjustments – your wages, pension, social security benefits, unemployment insurance, sales from homes, selling your business. It’s going to catch a lot more people than they are advertising.”

The other critique is that Seattle’s efforts will likely bleed into other Washington communities, and income taxes have historically risen after they are approved.

“If you‘re thinking that can’t happen in Washington, and we got to do this to protect the little guy,” he said. “If you want to protect the little guy, why did you just pass a soda tax … that hits them the hardest?”

“Unlike Las Vegas, what happens in Seattle does not stay in Seattle,” Mercier said. “It will soon find its way to Olympia and across the state.”

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